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Action on Salt

Breakfast cereal survey

12th November 2004

Health hazard hidden in breakfast bowls

New research published today reveals the very high salt content of some ‘healthy’ breakfast cereals.  Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) examined 334 breakfast cereals – branded and supermarket own-brand – currently on sale in the UK, and has found that over a third (35%) contain more salt per serving than a bag of ready-salted crisps, including Special K, All Bran, Golden Grahams, Cheerios, Shreddies and every brand of Cornflakes on sale in the UK.

The saltiest salt cereal found, Quaker Oat Krunchies, has a higher salt concentration than seawater – 3.0g of salt per 100g of product.  By comparison, Walkers ready-salted crisps contain half this amount of salt – 1.5g of salt per 100g.  A 50g bowl of this cereal provides 1.5g of salt – a quarter of the recommended daily limit for an adult. (A standard bag of ready-salted crisps contains 0.5g of salt).  

The salt content of cornflakes varies slightly, but the majority are around 1.1 – 1.25g of salt per 50g bowlful.

Nestle’s Golden Grahams contain 1.25g of salt per bowl – well over half the daily recommended limit for a three year-old and more than the salt content of two bags of crisps.   Even cereals marketed as ‘healthy’ such as Special K and All Bran contain over 1g of salt in a 50g bowlful.

“People think that cereals are a healthy breakfast,” said Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Chairman of CASH, “and in some cases this is true – our survey found several cereals with only trace levels of salt.  But people need to be aware that some breakfast cereals are as salty as the sea.  No parent would think that a bag of crisps represents a healthy breakfast for their children, but in many cases cereals actually contain more salt than crisps.”

“Breakfast cereals do not taste as salty as crisps, because the salt in formulated and processed cereals such as Oat Krunchies and Golden Grahams will be locked within the cereal product structure and will therefore not produce an immediate taste impact,” says Malcolm Kane, food technologist and member of CASH.  “By comparison, the salt in crisps is a surface dusting and will produce an immediate taste impact, dissolving rapidly in the saliva.”   
“The food industry needs to take on a much more ethical and honest stance,” continues Professor Graham MacGregor.  “We applaud the Co-op for their labelling, which clearly states that their own-label cornflakes are high in salt.  And yet they contain less salt than Kellogg’s cornflakes, which carry no such warning.  

“The industry needs to protect its customers from high levels of salt, which is a toxin that is slowly putting up blood pressure as we get older.  If the 6g target for salt intake were reached, there would be 70,000 fewer heart attacks and strokes each year in the UK1, half of which are fatal.  Salt is now causing hundreds of thousands of unnecessary strokes and heart attacks.  This reduction in salt intake will be one of the biggest improvements in public health since the introduction of clean water and drains into the UK in the late 19th Century.”


Notes to editors
• Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) is a group of the UK’s leading experts on salt and its effects on health.  It is working to reach a consensus with the food industry and government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking and at the table, so that salt intake in the UK is reduced in adults to less than 6g a day.
• Atlantic seawater contains 1g of sodium per 100g of water, equivalent to 2.5g of salt per 100g.
• Walkers Ready Salted crisps contain 0.6g of sodium per 100g, equivalent to 1.5g of salt per 100g of product, or 0.5g of salt per 34g bag.

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