Consensus Action on Salt and Health

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Soup survey

10th May 2007

  • Average salt content of soup has fallen
  • But many soups still contain very large amounts of hidden salt
  • One serving of soup can contain more salt than three packets of crisps or a whole ready-meal
Soup Data [DOC 1,090KB][XLS 1,090KB]
salt content of soup and a sandwich from Batchelors website recommendations [DOC 46KB] [XLS 46 KB]
Media Coverage [DOC 36KB] [DOC 36 KB]


A new report  published today by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) reveals that, although overall the Food Standards Agency’s 2010 target for average salt levels in soup  has technically been reached, as claimed by several companies , many popular varieties still contain more than a third (2g) of the day’s recommended maximum salt limit (6g) in a single serving.  This high level of hidden salt is particularly important as soup usually forms only part of a meal.

CASH surveyed 576 different soups available in the UK.  The research covered canned, chilled, packet, pouch, ready-made and instant soups from eight retailers, twelve brands and three take-away food chains.  Almost half - 48% of the sample - (278 soups) contained more than the target level of 0.6g salt per 100g.  Of those surveyed, Masterfoods’ Seeds of Change organic soups and Crosse and Blackwell Soup Cups averaged 1.0g of salt per 100g, followed by Ainsley Harriott, The Co-operative Group and Unilever’s Knorr soups, all with an average 0.8g of salt per 100g.  Batchelors, Baxters, Loyd Grossman, Morrisons, Somerfield and Waitrose all averaged 0.7g per 100g.

The company with the lowest level of salt in the survey was Simply Organic with an average salt content of just 0.24g per 100g, 3-4 times less salt per 100g than the highest.
The products with the highest salt concentration in the CASH survey were Baxters Canned Vegetarian Tomato and Orange ; Morrisons Canned Oxtail and Morrisons Minestrone simmer soup, all with 1.3g of salt per 100g, and the lowest was Pret a Manger Celeriac Mash Soup with just 0.12g of salt per 100g, a ten-fold difference.

Worryingly, the Asda Smart Price soups and some Tesco economy lines surveyed had higher salt levels than their standard ranges.  In the case of Asda, the highest salt soup in their whole range was from their economy line, meaning that people on lower incomes, who are already at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, are likely to choose higher-salt products unwittingly.

In the report, 125 (22%) of the soups surveyed contained more than 2g of salt per serving (one third of an adult’s daily limit, or the equivalent of four packets of crisps ) and 17 soups (3%) contained more than 3g of salt (half the daily maximum adult limit.)  
The average salt content for a serving of soup in the survey was 1.6g.  As a comparison, many ready-meals contain less than 1.6g of salt in a whole meal .  

Comparing the amount of salt in a serving of soup is complicated by the fact that different products have widely different suggested serving sizes.  Portion sizes range from 200g (half a standard can of soup), up to 400g (Loyd Grossman Pouch soups).  Taking the recommended serving sizes provided by the manufacturer, the highest level of salt in one single serving in the survey was Seeds of Change Creamy Tomato, containing an incredible 3.94g of salt per 350g serving – 66% of an adult’s maximum daily intake of 6g.  The soup with the lowest amount of salt per serving was again the Pret a Manger Celeriac Mash Soup with just 0.42g of salt per serving.

Some people may well consume a whole can or carton of soup and they need to be aware that the declared salt per serving given on the label needs to be doubled.  

Furthermore, most people will eat their soup as part of a meal, often with a sandwich or bread, which will add further to the salt content of the meal.  An average slice of bread contains 0.4g of salt, therefore consuming an average soup (1.6g salt per portion) with two slices of bread will provide at least 2.4g salt which is 40% of an adult’s daily limit.  And if a sandwich is consumed with an instant soup in a cup, as suggested by Batchelors on their website , it would be possible to eat up to or over the maximum daily limit in one meal.  A main meal such as lunch should provide no more than 30% of an adult’s daily intake.

“We are really concerned that the soups mentioned are a major hidden source of salt,” said Jo Butten, CASH Nutritionist and author of the CASH Salt Levels in Soup Report 2007.  “This is particularly important as soup generally only forms part of a meal, or, in the case of instant cup soups, is drunk as a snack or as an alternative to tea or coffee during the day.  The average salt content of the cup soups surveyed was 0.8g salt per 100g and they can contain up to half an adult's daily maximum salt limit in one cup.  A snack should contain roughly 10% of an adult’s daily intake of salt, and one of these instant cup soups can contain more salt than three packets of crisps .  We need people to realise that soup can contain lots of salt and we urge them always to choose the lower salt options and avoid all soups that contain more than 0.6g of salt per 100g."

"We congratulate those companies who have managed to reduce the amount of salt in their soups to well below the target " said Professor MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine.  "But there are a large number of soups (278 – 48% of the sample we looked at) that contain more than 0.6g of salt per 100g, and people are inadvertently eating a lot of salt through choosing these soups.  Some companies have used the 0.6g of salt per 100g level as an absolute target to make sure that all their soups are below this limit, whereas others are using this as an average level.  We would rather that all soup manufacturers worked in a responsible way, by not balancing out some very high salt soups with a few low salt products, which will not achieve the objective of reducing salt intake in the whole adult population to less than 6g day.”

“Of the soups and manufacturers we surveyed, Heinz, Morrisons, Tesco, Batchelors, Lloyd Grossman, Knorr and Seeds of Change all produce more than 50% of their soups with more than 0.6g of salt per 100g. In my view, these manufacturers need to act in a much more responsible way and work with the interests of their customers in mind and immediately reduce the salt content of their soups, particularly as other companies in the same category of soup have products available well below these levels. For example, Sainsbury's Canned, Be Good to Yourself Carrot and Coriander (0.3g salt per 100g) has three and a half times less salt than Seeds of Change Carrot and Coriander at 1.08g per 100g.

“Cutting our salt intake in the UK is vital, as recent research has shown that people who are able to reduce their salt intake by just 3g per day can reduce their risk of having a stroke or heart attack by one quarter .  If someone who regularly consumes Seeds of Change Organic Creamy Tomato Soup (3.94g of salt per portion) changed to Simply Organic Chunky Tomato and Lentil (0.75g of salt per portion) they could immediately cut their salt intake on those days by over 3g.  Until all manufacturers reduce the salt content of soups, the public needs to be aware and check the label.  We would strongly advise people only to choose soups that provide no more than 1.2g of salt per serving . The list of products from our survey on our website will help them to choose these lower salt soups.”  

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