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Action on Salt

BBQ food survey

18th June 2010

  • A barbecue meal could contain double your daily salt recommendation
  • A single burger from Tesco was found to contain 2g of salt, one third of your daily salt recommendation
  • Many products such as sauces and cheese slices were found to be saltier than seawater
  • Inconsistent portion sizes and front of pack labelling make it difficult to compare products

For Media Coverage: BBQ Media Coverage

Click here for high and low examples from each supermarket – Word [DOC 183KB] or Barbecue Food - Branded products Highest and Lowest [DOC 183KB]*

Click here for all data - BBQ Survey – Full Data [DOC 1,310KB]or Barbecue Food - Full Data [DOC 557KB]*

*use the tabs to navigate between full data sheet and each category

FACT:  You could be eating DOUBLE your daily maximum of salt in ONE BARBECUE MEAL

In the largest survey of its kind, CASH surveyed 603 barbecue food products such as burgers, sausages, crisps, salads and dips from the 7 leading supermarkets and the leading brands [Ref 1].  The research highlighted just how much salt is unknowingly being eaten when you have a barbecue. 

In 2009, according to the National BBQ Association, the UK held over 120 million barbecues [Ref 2].   With The World Cup in progress, and the weather hotting up, even more barbecues are expected this year.

The survey found that a ‘typical barbecue meal’ could add up to as much as 12.11g of salt – more than double your daily recommended maximum of 6g a day [Table 1].  Yet when looking across the range of supermarkets and brands, the lowest typical barbecue meal contained nearly TEN grams less salt at 2.75g, highlighting the huge difference of the salt content in similar-looking products. 

NB. A ‘typical barbecue meal’ was defined by CASH as; a hotdog with mustard, a burger with cheese and BBQ sauce, a piece of marinated meat, a helping of coleslaw and potato salad and plain crisps with dips (Ref 3).

In fact, you could have TWO THIRDS of your maximum daily salt intake with just one burger; a beef burger (Tesco Barbecue 4 Beef Ultimate Burgers; 2g per burger), in a bread roll (Warburton’s 4 Large White Rolls; 0.95g per roll), eaten with a cheese slice (The Cooperative 10 Cheese Singles; 0.7g per slice) and a squirt of BBQ Sauce (HP Original BBQ Sauce Classic; 0.38g per 15g portion) comes to over 4g of salt, even without having any extras such as crisps and salads. 

However, if you swap the Tesco’s burger for either one of Birdseye’s 4 Beef Burgers with Fresh Onion or one of The Cooperative’s 8 Beef Burgers with Onion (both 0.4g per burger), and swap the HP BBQ Sauce for Tesco’s Reduced Sugar & Salt Ketchup (trace salt per 15g) you could save 2g of salt and still have a delicious burger.

A shopping basket of barbecue products from each of the supermarkets could easily exceed the daily maximum of 6g of salt [Table 2].  Tesco’s, Asda and Morrison’s all had a typical barbecue meal available containing over 9g of salt; TESCO had the highest products available overall, adding up to 9.27g of salt [Table 3].  Sainsbury’s had the lowest products available overall, with less than 4g of salt for their lowest typical barbecue meal.

The extras, such as crisps and dips, in a barbecue also add up quickly.  By dipping Morrisons The Best Sea Salted Handcooked Crisps (0.75g per 50g) into Discovery Hot Salsa Dip (0.75g per 50g), you would be eating 15 times more salt than if you dipped Kettle Chips No Added Salt (0.10 per 50g) into Morrisons Tomato Salsa (trace per 50g). 

In addition to the large variation in salt content, unclear labelling on the packaging combined with the often unrealistic portion sizes makes it very hard for people to know how much salt they are eating when they have a barbecue. 

Front of pack labelling helps shoppers see what is in their food at a glance; CASH found nearly a third of the products (174 out of 603) still contained no front of pack labelling.  Over 100 products had no salt per portion information on pack and 22 products had no salt information on the pack at all.  Tesco had the most consistent labelling using Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) across most of their products, however without traffic lights many consumers may find this difficult to interpret.  Asda and M&S products used the clearest labelling, combining GDA and traffic lights [Ref 4]. Surprisingly, CASH found Waitrose labelling the least consistent, and therefore the hardest to analyse, of all the supermarkets.

Portion sizes on the labels were described differently depending on the brand; making it easy to underestimate how much salt you might actually eat at a barbecue.  For example sometimes a portion was 1 chipolata sausage and other times it was 2 jumbo sausages, a portion of crisps ranged from one to two handfuls, and dips ranged from as little as 1 to as much as 4 tablespoons per portion. 

“The fact that some manufacturers can keep the salt content right down in these foods highlights how unnecessary it is for the rest to have such a high salt content” says Professor Graham MacGregor, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Chairman of CASH.  “It is the very high levels of salt that are added to our food that puts up our blood pressure and leads to thousands of people needlessly dying of strokes, heart attacks and heart failures every year.  We urge these companies to reduce their salt content immediately.”

“Having a barbecue during The World Cup is great fun, but there is no need to be eating dangerous levels of salt at the same time” says CASH Campaign Manager & Nutritionist Katharine Jenner “Many of the products in a tasty barbecue, such as meat, potato salad and crème fraiche for dips naturally contain very little salt.  I think many people would be surprised to learn you could have as much salt in your dip as in your crisps! It is important to think about how much you really eat in a barbecue, and be on the look out for lower salt alternatives when shopping.”

Joe Korner, Director of Communications for The Stroke Association said, “Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. The recommended daily maximum is about one teaspoon per day. Although many people recognise that too much salt can be bad for them, they may not realise that before you add any salt to your food, you may have already consumed more than this without even tasting it. Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke by eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat, exercising regularly, giving up smoking, drinking responsibly and having regular blood pressure checks.”

To help choose the healthier barbecue for you and the family, Hannah Brinsden who carried out the research for CASH, has put together some barbecue tips which are available, along with a number of great recipes, on the CASH website at


  • Venison burgers appear to be higher in salt compared to other burgers, try to limit these
  • ‘Flavoured’ coleslaws with prawn or cheese tend to be higher in salt, stick to basic coleslaw, or better still make your own!
  • Make your own marinades, dips and salads rather than using shop-bought products
  • Sauces such as ketchup and mustard are often high in salt, some are even saltier than seawater [Ref 5], limit the amount you have
  • Cheese singles can be very salty, try using cheddar cheese slices instead as these are often lower in salt
  • Burgers are often saltier than sausages, so try making your own burgers
  • Try Kettles No Added Salt or Tyrells Naked - No Salt crisps,  you won’t even notice a difference if you’re using a dip

Go to Welcome to Consensus Action on Salt and Health for more information, or contact:

Table 1 - Highest vs. lowest ‘typical barbecue meal’


Typical BBQ Meal Highest Meal Options Salt Content/   Standard Portion Lowest Meal Options Salt Content/   Standard Portion Difference in Salt Content
1 Sausage Tesco Barbecue Cumberland Sausage Whirls (frozen) 1.6g  Walls 8 Skinless Pork Sausages  0.25g  1.35
1 Burger Tesco Barbecue 4 Beef Ultimate Burgers (frozen) 2.0g The Cooperative 8 Beef Burgers  with Onion                                                               Birds Eye 4 Original Beef Burgers with Fresh Onion  0.4g 1.6 
1 portion/ piece Marinated Meat Morrisons Hot & Spicy Chicken Wings                                                           Marks & Spencer Ginger lime Coriander Chicken 1.8g

Tesco Barbecue 4 BBQ Beef Skewers

 0.10g 1.7 
1 Hot Dog Roll Sainsbury's 6 White Jumbo Hot Dog Rolls 0.94g  

Essential Waitrose 6 White Finger Rolls

 0.34g  0.6
1 Burger Bun Warburton’s 4 Large White Rolls 0.95g  

Marks & Spencer 4 Ultimate Burger Buns

 0.50g  0.45
15g American Style Mustard Tesco Genuine American Mustard 0.6g  ASDA Squeezy American Mustard  0.36g  0.24
15g BBQ Sauce HP Original BBQ Sauce - Classic Woodsmoke Flavour 0.38g Tesco Tangy BBQ Sauce  0.12g  0.16
50g Coleslaw Morrisons Reduced Fat Creamy Coleslaw 0.65g  

ASDA Smartprice Coleslaw

0.05g  0.6 
50g Potato Salad ASDA Smartprice Potato Salad 0.5g Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Baby Potato Salad with Mint  0.10g  0.4
50g Crisps Morrison’s The Best Sea Salted Handcooked Crisps 0.75g  Kettle Chips No Added Salt 0.10g  0.65
1 Slice Cheese The Cooperative 10 Cheese Singles 0.7g  Morrisons Mature Cheddar 10 Slices   0.3g 0.4
50g Salsa Discovery Hot Salsa   0.75g  Morrisons Tomato Salsa (fresh)  trace  0.75
50g Sour Cream Dip Doritos Cool Sour Cream & Chive Dip 0.49g  Essential Waitrose Half Fat Sour Cream and Chive Dip  0.13g  0.36
   Total 12.11g  Total  2.75g  9.36g


Ref 1 – Survey details

  • The survey of 603 BBQ products includes: burgers, sausages, marinated meat, vegetarian sausages and burgers, hot dog rolls, burger buns, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, coleslaw, potato salad, plain crisps/tortillas, salsa/sour cream dips.
  • Product data was collected from packaging and online from all ranges in supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, and The Cooperative / Somerfield.  Branded items were also included.
  • The survey was conducted between May and June 2010. All products mentioned in this release were re-checked in store between 9th and 14th June. Photos available on request.

Ref 2 – National BBQ Association

Ref 3 – Meal description & standardized portion sizes
Using portion sizes most frequently recommended by manufacturers, the following was defined as a ‘typical barbecue meal’.

  • 1 sausage in a hot dog roll with 15g of American style mustard
  • 1 burger in a burger bun with a slice of cheese  and 15g BBQ sauce
  • 1 portion of marinated meat as recommended by manufacturer
  • 50g coleslaw
  • 50g potato salad
  • 50g plain crisps with 50g of salsa and 50g of soured cream and chive dip

When looking at a meal from each supermarket, own branded products were used unless there was no product available. In this case the market leader was used. For BBQ Sauce this was deemed to be HP Original BBQ Sauce, and for American mustard this was deemed to be French’s American mustard.

Ref 4– Food Standards Agency labelling research

Ref 5 – Atlantic seawater contains 1.0g of sodium per 100g, which equates to 2.5g of salt per 100g.

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