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Action on Salt

'Free From' survey

24 September 2009

  • Research finds much higher levels of salt in many wheat and dairy free foods
  • People choosing wheat or dairy free products could be risking their heart health 




For Media Coverage: Media Coverage for Free From Products Survey Press Release


New research carried out by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) shows that many wheat and dairy free foods available in supermarkets contain higher amounts of salt than their standard counterparts.  In one case, the ‘Free From’ version contained more than six times as much salt.

CASH surveyed 71 supermarket own-label products from ‘Free From’ ranges, where the products were free from gluten, wheat or dairy. These were compared to the retailer’s standard version of the product.  Over half (40 products, 56.3%) of the ‘Free From’ products surveyed had higher salt levels than the standard version, while less than a third (19 products, 26.7%) had lower salt levels.

Sainsbury’s Free From Jaffa Cakes have 0.67g of salt per 100g, compared with 0.1g of salt per 100g in standard Sainsbury’s Jaffa Cakes.  This is more than six times the salt level of the standard version.  Morrison’s standard Chocolate Chip Cookies contain 0.5g of salt per 100g, while their Free From version contains 1.5g per 100g - three times as much.  ASDA Free From Double Chocolate Muffins have over three times as much salt as ASDA Double Chocolate Muffins (1.0g salt per 100g as opposed to 0.3g salt per 100g).

“Many people in the UK suffer from food allergies such as Coeliac Disease. Sufferers are unable to tolerate gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Many other people also follow a wheat or dairy free diet through choice as they feel that they are intolerant to these ingredients,” said Katharine Jenner, Nutritionist and CASH Campaign Manager.  “But we don’t think they should be risking their health further by consuming high-salt ‘Free From’ products.  Many of the products we surveyed were cakes, biscuits and pastries, which people probably wouldn’t expect to have any salt in them at all, so it’s all the more shocking to find such large differences between the standard and free from versions.

“Interestingly, some of the Free From products we surveyed had lower levels of salt than their standard counterparts, which shows that there is no technical reason why ‘Free From’ products have to have higher salt levels. We would encourage people to choose the lower salt products in our survey and they can find this information on our website.”  

“Keeping salt consumption below the recommended maximum limit of 6g a day for adults is vital for all of us,” says Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine.  “Salt puts up our blood pressure, which is the major risk factor for strokes, heart failure and heart disease, the leading causes of death and disability in the UK.

“In general, it has been the supermarket own-label products that have led the way in salt reduction, but it seems that own-label products for people with existing health problems have not been a top priority for the retailers.  They must now reformulate the higher-salt products immediately, so that people suffering from Coeliac disease or other related conditions do not have to put their health in further jeopardy.”  

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