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Action on Salt

Coffee survey

23rd October 2010

  • A hot beverage and a sweet treat can contain more than a third of your maximum daily salt recommendation
  • A Luxury fruit scone with a hot chocolate from Caffé Nero contain 2.43g of salt, equivalent to nearly 5 packets of crisps
  • The lack of nutrition information on packets and in store make it difficult to make healthy choices

Click here for all data: coffee break data [DOC 320KB]

Click here to see the Daily Mail article
For Media Coverage: Coffee Media Coverage
British Heart Foundation responds to coffee break survey


A hot drink with a piece of cake could contain nearly as much salt as five packets of crisps.

23.10.10. Research carried out by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), has found surprisingly high levels of salt in products from high street coffee shops. A survey of 159 bakery treats and 28 popular hot beverages from the six major high street coffee shop chains found that a hot drink and a sweet treat such as a piece of cake or a cookie can contain shocking amounts of salt [Ref 1]. You could be eating 2.43g of salt in a morning snack alone, more than a third of your daily 6g maximum, without even knowing it due to the lack of labelling on the products.

The worst offender, a luxury fruit scone from Caffè Nero, contains 2.1g of salt – the equivalent to that found in a McDonald's Big Mac (2.1g salt) [Ref 2]. Add to this a Caffè Nero Hot Chocolate with 0.33g salt and you could be having as much as 2.43g of salt on top of your regular meals; the same amount of salt consumed by eating nearly five packets of crisps [Ref 3].

"Going out for a coffee and a muffin is a popular calorie-laden treat, but many people don't realise sweet foods can also contain unnecessary salt" says Katharine Jenner, CASH Campaign Manager. "High levels of salt can leave you feeling uncomfortably bloated and sluggish, symptoms of 'water retention'. More seriously, in the long term salt intake is linked to health problems such as osteoporosis and high blood pressure".

The 5 saltiest bakery treats are: 

  • Caffé Nero - Luxury Fruit Scone (2.1g salt per portion)
  • McDonald's - Low Fat Blueberry Muffin (1.7g salt per portion)
  • EAT. - Chocolate Cookie (1.575g salt per portion)
  • EAT. - Muesli Cookie (1.575g salt per portion)
  • Prêt A Manger - Choc Bar (1.528g salt per portion)

Out of the products surveyed, muffins were found to be consistently high in salt, on average containing double the amount found in cupcakes. As many as 85% (23 of the total 27) of muffins surveyed were found to contain more salt than a packet of crisps compared to only 9% (1 out of 11) of the surveyed cupcakes. Although the salt content of many of these products is still high, there have been notable improvements in the salt content of coffee shop treats since 2008 (Ref 4). For instance, the average salt content of muffins and pastries has been reduced by a quarter (a 0.92g to 0.68g reduction for muffins and 0.79g to 0.59g for pastries).

According to the current McDonald's advert there is "a coffee for all occasions".  But beware, with 2.1g of salt [Ref 5], a McDonald's Low Fat Blueberry Muffin with a Regular Latte contains more salt than a Bacon & Egg McMuffin with a regular White Coffee (1.5g salt). "It is absurd that a sweet muffin contains more salt than a Bacon and Egg McMuffin" says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. "Clearly the manufacturers still have a long way to go if we are to reduce our salt intake to 6g a day and save the maximum number of lives.  Every gram of salt removed from our diet is estimated to prevent 6,000 deaths each year from heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, creating potential healthcare savings of £1.5billion per year." [Ref 6]

The 5 least salty bakery treats are: 

  • Starbucks - Dolcetto al Cacao (0.03g salt per portion)
  • COSTA - Mini Muffin Choc (0.048g salt per portion)
  • Starbucks - Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Fairtrade (0.05g salt per portion)
  • Starbucks - Belgian Chocolate Brownie Gluten Free Fairtrade (0.07g salt per portion)
  • EAT. - Maple Pecan Plait (0.07g salt per portion)

The differences between products in the same coffee shop can be huge. Simply by swapping the Luxury Fruit Scone and Hot Chocolate from Caffé Nero (2.43g), for their Belgian Chocolate Brownie with 0.19g salt and a Cappuccino with 0.09g, you would save a massive 2g of salt. "Swapping salty treats for others with less salt, often available at the same cafe, is a really good step to take to reduce your salt intake" says CASH Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden. "Unfortunately there is almost no nutritional information available in store, making it very hard for people to make a healthy choice".

Top Nutritional Tips:

  • Go for a filter coffee or a tea and add your own milk to keep the salt to a minimum.
  • Go for cupcakes in favour of muffins
  • Avoid pastries which also tend to be high in saturated fat
  • If you want to opt for a lower salt option, the best choice is the Starbucks Dolcetto al Cacao (a biscuit with 0.03g salt) with their signature hot chocolate (0.11g) totaling just 0.14g salt.
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