Consensus Action on Salt and Health

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Vegetarian foods survey

19th May 2008

  • People seeking ‘healthier’ meat-free alternatives need to choose carefully
  • Some vegetarian burgers and sausages contain as much salt as three or four bags of crisps  

For Media Coverage: Vegetarian Burgers and Sausages Media Coverage

Salt content of vegetarian foods [DOC 138KB]

Research carried out by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) ahead of National Vegetarian Week[1]  has found that vegetarian sausages and burgers can be just as salty as their meat equivalent products and some are even higher in salt.  The saltiest burger in the survey contained more salt than three packets of crisps and the saltiest sausage contained more salt than five packets of crisps[2].  

The saltiest vegetarian sausage in the survey, Fry’s Vegetarian Traditional Sausage, contains 2.8g of salt per sausage, so anyone eating two of these sausages as part of a meal would be getting almost all their maximum recommended daily limit of 6g of salt.  If a child were eating these products they would be getting far more than their maximum recommended intake. By contrast, one pork sausage from Sainsbury’s[3]  contains 0.7g of salt, so the vegetarian option contains four times as much salt.

The research also found large variations in the amount of salt in vegetarian sausages.  For example, a Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausage has 38% more salt than an equivalent Quorn sausage[4] . Two Cauldron vegetarian Lincolnshire sausages contain 2.0 g of salt compared with two Asda Meat Free Lincolnshire Sausages that contain 1.2 g salt, a difference of 40% per two-sausage portion.  Some vegetarian sausages do contain lower levels of salt. For instance, several varieties of Quorn sausages contain only 0.5g of salt per sausage.

Looking at burgers, a Cauldron Savoury Burger contains 1.5g salt while an ASDA beefburger contains only 0.3g of salt.  Thus the vegetarian option contains five times as much salt as the meat version.

The saltiest vegetarian burgers in the survey were Fry’s Vegetarian Traditional Burgers and Fry’s Vegetarian Spiced Burgers, each with 1.8g of salt per burger, six times saltier than the ASDA meat burger, and over three times saltier than the vegetarian burgers with the lowest levels of salt in the survey, such as Quorn burger and Tesco Meat Free burger, each with 0.5g of salt per burger.

“With the BBQ season already upon us, many people may think that going meat-free is a healthier option” says Carrie Bolt, CASH Nutritionist.  “But our research shows that vegetarian burgers and sausages are just as salty as meat equivalent products, and some are considerably higher in salt than others.  We would urge people to look carefully at the labelling to help make sure that they are buying lower salt products wherever they can.  Confusingly, many of these products give only the sodium levels on pack.  These need to be multiplied by 2.5 to get the salt levels.”

“Checking the labelling is particularly important when parents are buying vegetarian products for their children. For example, two Cauldron Cumberland sausages contain two-thirds (66%) of the maximum recommended daily salt intake for children aged 4 -6 years[5] and that does not include the salt content of any ketchup, chips or baked beans that they may also have as part of the meal.

“Vegetarian diets are associated with being higher in fruits and vegetables and with healthier eating, but this research shows that vegetarians could unwittingly be eating meat-free processed products that are high in salt and they may not realise how much salt is in these foods”.

“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.  “My worry is that people are choosing vegetarian products thinking that they are healthier for them than meat products and in terms of salt content, our research shows that this is not necessarily the case.  A lot of work has been done by the food industry to reduce the salt content of meat products such as sausages and burgers. The same should now be done by manufacturers of vegetarian products.  They also need to provide clearer labelling of the salt content.  Some products do have lower levels of salt, which begs the question as to why some have around the same salt content as Atlantic sea water?”   


1 National Vegetarian Week, sponsored by Cauldron Foods, runs from Monday 19th to Sunday 25th May 2008.

2 A standard 34.5g bag of Walker’s Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.5g of salt.  The Fry’s Special Traditional Burger contains 1.8g of salt and the Fry’s Vegetarian Traditional Sausage contains 2.8g of salt.

3 Sainsbury’s Butcher’s Choice large pork sausage = 0.7g of salt per sausage

4 Linda McCartney sausage = 0.8g of salt per sausage, so anyone eating two sausages would be eating 1.6g salt compared with 1.0g salt for two Quorn sausages. (This is based on the per sausage figure, not per 100 grams).  

5 Cauldron Cumberland sausages contain 1g of salt each, so a portion of two 50g sausages will contain 2g of salt, 66% of the maximum recommended daily intake for a 4-6 year-old (3g per day) and 100% of the maximum recommended daily intake for a 1-3 year-old (2g per day).

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