Dangerous levels of salt found in Great British Bangers

17th June
Your family's favourite sausages could contain nearly half your adult maximum daily recommendation of salt, putting your health at risk
  • Reducing salt by 20%, from the 2010 to the 2012 targets [Ref 1] would remove 500 tonnes of salt from the diet per year – the equivalent of over 90 elephants! [Ref 2]
  • Only 7 out of 246 meat sausages contain less salt than a packet of crisps [Ref 3]

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Sausages are an everyday favourite, and a new survey of 300 sausages showed that many are still shockingly high in salt.  By starting the day with 2 high salt sausages at breakfast, you could unexpectedly be eating half of your daily recommended maximum of 6g salt.  Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) carried out new research looking at fresh and frozen meat, chipolata and vegetarian sausages [Ref 4] and identified that unnecessary salt is still being hidden in leading brand sausages.

The 5 highest salt popular sausages per 100g as per the label:

  • Richmond Skinless Sausages (fresh & frozen) 2.3g/100g
  • Richmond Thick Sausages (fresh & frozen) 2.2g/100g
  • Richmond Thin Sausages 2.2g/100g
  • Sainsbury’s Butchers Choice Large Pork Sausages 2.12g/100g
  • Iceland Thick Pork Sausages 2.0g/100g
 You may expect the more expensive sausages to have fared better, however CASH found that despite a 9 fold difference in the price of sausages (per 100g) [Ref 5], there was no notable difference in the salt content of economy versus standard or premium supermarket ranges, which is good news for those on a budget.

 

The research found huge differences between similar flavoured premium sausages, with 2 Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Chilli & Coriander Pork Sausages containing 1.55g salt, nearly half a gram (0.44g), or 40%, more salt than 2 Tesco Finest British Pork & Sweet Chilli Sausages, which contain 1.1g salt.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pugh at Daily Mail

CASH were pleased to see that celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal already offer tasty products which meet the 2012 salt targets:

  • Jamie Oliver Beautiful Coarse-textured Italian Style Sausages (1.1g per 100g)
  • Heston from Waitrose Boerewors Sausages (1.00g per 100g)

 

“Sausages are such a British favourite at mealtimes, that they are the third largest individual contributor of salt in the UK diet [Ref 6]” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director and Nutritionist at CASH. “It is possible to eat much less salt by reading the label: we found enormous differences in salt content of sausages, regardless of the flavour, cost or meat content, showing that the hidden salt is completely unnecessary.”

CASH would advise you to look at front of pack labels when they are available and, as a guide, try to choose products containing 1 gram or less salt per 100g, or about 0.5g per sausage.  Of the meat sausages surveyed (excluding chipolatas), only 7 out of 246 (3%) contain less than 0.5g per sausage, the amount of salt found in a packet of crisps, for instance Weight Watchers Premium Pork Sausages contain just 0.4g per sausage. Disappointingly it is not always clear to see how much salt sausages contain; 1 in 4 (25%) products have no front of pack labelling.  Our research showed that more than 1 in 5 (22%) products would be given a red light for salt if traffic light labelling was used while only one, a Quorn product, would be given a green light [Ref 7].

Examples of supermarket sausages with 1g or less salt per 100g as per the label:

  • Waitrose Pork Toulouse Style Sausages (0.93g salt/100g)
  • ASDA Extra Special Pork & Apple Sausages (1.0g* salt/100g)
  • Morrison’s Thick Pork & Beef Sausages (frozen) (1g salt/100g)
  • Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself Extra Lean Cumberland Sausages (1.00g salt/100g)
  • The Co-operative Truly Irresistible British Pork & Sweet Chilli Sausages (1.0g salt/100g)
  • Tesco Finest British Pork & Sweet Chilli Sausages (1.0g salt/100g)
    *calculated figure

“That there is so much salt still in our sausages is a scandal” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. “Salt puts up our blood pressure, leading to strokes, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease, we should all be eating less than 6g of salt a day.  The UK is leading the world in salt reduction, but whilst there are food manufacturers filling our favourite foods such as sausages with salt, our health is at risk.”

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said “This survey shows just how much salt could be in our favourite sausages and yet that important information is often hidden in confusing and unhelpful food labels.  So whether it’s salty sausages, sugary sweets or fatty fast food, we need clear and consistent front-of-pack food labelling so we can all make informed choices to help keep our hearts healthy.”

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Tables

Table 1 - Products containing 2g or more salt per 100g on the label as per the label

BrandProduct NameSalt/100g (g)Salt/sausage (g)
RichmondSkinless Sausages2.30.5
RichmondThick Sausages2.21.1
RichmondThin Sausages2.20.5
Royal BerkshireFree Range Traditional Pork Sausages2.131.50
Sainsbury'sButcher's Choice British Large Pork Sausages2.121.00
Broad Oak Farm8 Lincolnshire Pork Sausages2.001.00
Iceland8 Thick Pork Sausages2.01.0

 

Table 2 - Products containing 1g or less salt per 100g (an 0.5g or less per sausage) as per the label

BrandProduct NameSalt/100g (g)Salt/sausage (g)
ASDA Chosen By YouMeat Free 6 Glamorgan Sausages0.60.3
Riley'sManchester Sausage0.750.30
Riley'sYorkshire Gold Pork Sausage0.750.30
Morrisons15 Thick Pork And Beef Sausages10.5
QuornSizzling BBQ Bangers1.000.50
QuornCumberland Sausages1.000.50
QuornSausages1.00.42
Sainsbury's6 Meat Free Lincolnshire Sausages1.000.50
Sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself8 Extra Lean Cumberland Sausages1.000.50
The Co-operative Truly IrresistibleBritish Pork Chipolata Sausages1.00.35

                    

Table 3 - Supermarket high and low examples

Supermarket

High ExampleSalt/Sausage (g)Low ExampleSalt/sausage (g)Difference (g)
ASDAExtra Special Cumberland Sausages1.15Chosen By You Butchers Choice 12 Lincolnshire Sausages0.50.65
TescoFinest British Pork  Cumberland Sausage0.9Finest 6 British Pork & Sweet Chilli Sausages0.550.35
Sainsbury'sButchers Choice British Large Pork Sausages1.00Be Good To Yourself Extra Lean Cumberland Sausages0.500.5
MorrisonsThe Best 6 Pork Thick Sausages18 Pork Thick Sausages (Butchers Style)0.50.5
The Co-operative8 Irish Recipe British Elmwood Pork Sausages0.75Butchers Choice British Elmwood 8 Lincolnshire Pork Sausages0.550.2
Marks & Spencer10 Pork Chipolata Sausages0.648 Premium Pork Chipolata Sausages0.330.31
Iceland8 Thick Pork Sausages1.0Thick Pork Sausages (frozen)0.60.4
Waitrose6 Pork, Wholegrain Mustard and Onion Sausages0.926 Pork Toulouse Style Sausages0.610.31

 

References
Ref 1 – Sausage salt reduction targets:
2010 target: 1.4g/100g (maximum), 2012 target: 1.13g/100g (maximum) (a 19.3% reduction)

The original salt targets were set by the Food Standards Agency for 2010. The targets have since been revised for 2012 by the Department of Health and form the basis of the salt pledge as part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal. The salt pledge states that “We commit to the salt targets for the end of 2012 agreed by the Responsibility Deal, which collectively will deliver a further 15% reduction on 2010 targets.  For some products this will require acceptable technical solutions which we are working to achieve.  These targets will give a total salt reduction of nearly 1g per person per day compared to 2007 levels in food.  We recognise that achieving the public health goal of consuming no more than 6g of salt per person per day will necessitate action across the whole industry, Government, NGOs and individuals”. Over 50 companies have signed up to this pledge so far, including all of the major retailers. Further details available here: http://responsibilitydeal.dh.gov.uk/

Ref 2 – During the year to June 2010 we ate 186,210 tonnes of sausages (worth £653.3 million). (http://www.lovepork.co.uk/assets/pdf/sausage-facts-stats.pdf).  By reducing salt from the 2010 target (1.4g/100g = 2,607 tonnes of salt/sausages per year) to the 2012 target (1.13g/100g = 2,104 tonnes salt/sausages per year), we would be removing 500 tonnes of salt from the UK diet, the equivalent of over 90 elephants
NB (Asian elephant: approx 5 tonnes, African elephant, approx 6 tonnes – average 5.5 tonnes http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/safeguarding_the_natural_world/wildlife/asian_elephants/)

Ref 3 – A standard 34.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.5g of salt, 8.5% of the daily maximum recommendation of salt

Ref 4 - Survey details (Full data available with this release) and tables below:

  • This survey looked at 300 fresh and frozen meat, vegetarian and chipolata sausages available in supermarkets. Sausage products such as sausage rolls, cocktail sausages and Frankfurters were excluded from this survey
  • Product data was collected from product packaging and online from the leading supermarkets: Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, The Co-operative, Iceland and Lidl. Branded product data was also collected in store and from the company’s own websites
  • As well as salt data, front of pack information and cost was also collected
  • The survey was carried out in May 2011. All products mentioned in this release were re-checked between 9th – 13th June 2011 online, in store or through customer services

Ref 5 – The cost of supermarket own brand products ranged from 10p per 100g to 88p per 100g. Costs were correct at time of data collection (June 2011) but are subject to change and variation
Ref 6 – NDNS – sausages are the joint third largest contributor of salt to our diet at 6% - after bread (17%) and bacon/ham (7%)- based on processed food contribution only

Ref 7 – Traffic light labelling criteria for salt:

Green (Low)Amber (Medium)Red (High)
≤0.30g/100g> 0.30 to ≤ 1.50g/100g>1.50g/100g>2.40g/portion

 

NB - This is an amended press release following clarification over salt target categories for sausages and information provided on pack. We also had confirmation from the company Musk's that their labelling was incorrect and were therefore quoted has having higher salt sausages than was actually the case.