Consensus Action on Salt and Health

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Breakfast survey

30 October 2008

  • Many breakfast items surprisingly high in salt
  • Lack of labelling means some customers unaware of salt levels

Breakfast survey spreadsheet data [DOC 2,468KB]

For Media Coverage: Media Coverage for CASH Press Release on Salt Content in Breakfast

New research carried out by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has found that many foods commonly eaten for breakfast have large amounts of hidden salt.

The survey of over 200 food items showed that a traditional Full English fry-up can contain as much as 6g of salt – the limit for an adult for the whole day in a single sitting.

More surprisingly, many croissants, pastries and muffins contain more salt than a rasher of bacon.  The saltiest ‘sweet’ pastry surveyed was a Starbucks Cinnamon Swirl, with 1.74g of salt.  This is equivalent to the salt content of two rashers of bacon. [1].  A Starbucks breakfast of a café latte and a cinnamon swirl contains 2.1g of salt. [2]  All the American-style muffins surveyed by CASH had more salt than a standard bag of crisps, while some, like Costa’s Raspberry and White Chocolate muffin, contained as much salt as three bags. [3]

A full English breakfast can be extremely salty. A typical fry-up of one sausage, two rashers of bacon, one egg, baked beans and two slices of toast and butter contains around 4.5g salt.  A slightly larger breakfast of two rashers of bacon, two sausages, one fried egg, mushrooms, baked beans, two slices of black pudding, a tomato and one slice of toast and butter, as served in many cafes around the country, will contain 6.1g of salt, before any ketchup, brown sauce or extra salt is added.  A Burger King Big Breakfast Butty with HP sauce contains over 5.5g of salt.
However, traditional English and cooked breakfasts need not be off the menu completely. One egg, tomatoes, mushrooms, and one slice of toast and butter contains less than 0.7g salt.  Even two sausages, one egg, tomatoes, mushrooms and one slice of toast and butter would contain around 2.3g salt, not much more than the coffee shop latte and pastry.

But many who would not dream of eating a fry-up could find that their “healthier options” breakfast is still very high in salt.  A ‘healthy start’ at home of coffee, orange juice, small 30g serving of Kellogg’s Cornflakes plus 2 slices toast with butter and Marmite contains over 2.8g salt, nearly half the adult recommended salt limit for the day.

“I think that people are becoming more aware of the importance of having a good breakfast as part of a healthy diet. I also think most people know that a Full English breakfast is a salty option,” says Carrie Bolt, CASH Nutritionist.  “But many will be surprised to learn that it could contain their whole salt limit for the day, and many more will be surprised that a seemingly healthy start to the day of breakfast cereals and toast can be laden with salt.

“When eating breakfast away from home, customers shunning greasy spoons for coffee shop breakfasts could actually be eating more salt and would be better off choosing lower salt options from the greasy spoon menu,” continues Carrie Bolt.    
“We believe that people should be given as much information as possible about the food they buy, so that they can make an informed choice”

“Some people regularly eat breakfast out of the home [4], either in cafes, hotels or on the way to work,” says Hayley Lucas who carried out the research for CASH.  “The breakfast items they are buying often don’t have any on-pack labelling, so we are publishing our full survey results on our website and have created tables showing which are the saltiest and better breakfast choices in each category for consumers.  So if your favourite breakfast is a pain au raisin, then you will be able to see that Starbucks’ version has around twice as much salt as the Café Nero option (1.06g versus 0.51g).”   
“We all need to make sure we eat less salt, as the amount that we currently eats put up our blood pressure and this is the major cause of strokes and heart attacks” says Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London.  “Salt intakes are coming down, but we still have a long way to go before we hit the 6g a day target.  People may be looking at labels and choosing lower salt products for lunch and dinner, but my worry is that they may not even consider that their breakfast could contain a lot of salt.”

. A rasher of Sainsbury’s un-smoked bacon contains 0.8g salt.  The average salt content of the croissants and other pastries surveyed was 0.85g.
2. Starbucks Cinnamon Swirl (1.74g salt), Starbucks Grande Caffe Latte (0.363g salt equivalent)
3. A standard 34g packet of Walkers Ready Salted crisps contains 0.5g salt.  All the standard-sized muffins in the survey contained 0.5g of salt or more.  The saltiest was Costa’s Raspberry and White Chocolate muffin, with 1.71g of salt.
4. 10% of adults eat breakfast out of the home more than once a week. (Mintel (2007) Breakfast Catering Leisure Intelligence)

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