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Action on Salt

Coffee Breaks Update

  • …The scone that’s as salty as a McDonald’s hamburger!
  • Whilst some great salt reductions have been made, up to 70%, some companies have failed to make any reductions at all
  • Shamefully, new high salt products have been introduced
  • Insufficient in store labelling is still failing customers

8th October 2011

Follow the links for the relevant articles from the Daily Mail, AOL Lifestyle and British Baker

In October 2010, Consensus Action on Salt and Health conducted a survey of coffee break products available in leading coffee shop chains exposing many products as being unnecessarily high in salt [Ref 1].

This new survey [Ref 2] shows that one year on, some great progress has been made, demonstrating that manufacturers can easily take out the salt without affecting the taste:
• Last year, the saltiest product surveyed was a Caffè Nero Luxury Fruit Scone that was as salty as a Big Mac (2.1g salt) [Ref 3].  Now the salt has been almost halved, with 42% less salt (1.2g salt, not including butter and jam), but be aware, it is still as salty as a McDonald's Hamburger!
• EAT.’s Muesli Cookie had the equivalent salt content of more than three packets of crisps [Ref 4] in 2010, now it has been reduced by a huge 68% and contains the same amount of salt as one packet of crisps (1.575g salt to 0.5g salt)

However, despite this great progress, 85% (108/127) of the products STILL contain the same level of salt as they did in 2010.  McDonald’s Low Fat Blueberry Muffin, positioned as a ‘healthier’ option, is now the saltiest coffee break product surveyed, containing 1.7g salt. CASH was also very disappointed to see NEW high salt products added to coffee shop menus in the last year: A Toasted Fruited Brioche from EAT. contains 1.6g salt (not including butter) and is now the second saltiest product available. Each of these products contains more than a quarter of your daily salt recommended maximum of 6g.

“These reductions are just the tip of the iceberg if we are to have the maximum impact on our health” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. “Manufacturers need to stop hiding salt in their products and stop irresponsibly introducing new ones that are high in salt immediately.  It is the high levels of salt in our food that puts up our blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks.”

The lack of salt labelling available in store for customers makes it hard to know if their favourite product is high in salt. Information is available online and in some shops on request but this simply isn’t practical. CASH urges coffee shops to provide full nutritional information, not just calories, at the point of choice to help customers make an informed decision.

“It is great to see some manufacturers finally realising we don’t want salty cakes and cookies” says Kay Dilley, CASH nutritionist, “but without clear labelling we still have no idea how much salt we are eating in our coffee break, making it hard for us to eat less than the recommended maximum of 6g a day.”

CASH are very pleased to see that COSTA, EAT. and Pret A Manger have made a commitment to public health by signing up to the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal Salt Pledge, to reduce the salt in their products over the next 2 years [Ref 5]. McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Caffè Nero have failed so far to sign the pledge and CASH urges them to do so immediately if we are to save the maximum number of lives.

10 Highest products in 2010

Brand  Product Name 2010: Salt per portion (g) 2011: Salt per portion (g) Change since 2010
Caffè Nero  Luxury Fruit Scone (not including butter or jam) 2.1 1.21 42% reduction
McDonald's  Low Fat Blueberry Muffin 1.7 1.7 No change
EAT. Chocolate Cookie  1.575 0.7  56%  reduction
EAT. Muesli Cookie 1.575  0.5 68% reduction
Pret A Manger Choc Bar 1.528 1.5  2% reduction
Starbucks Berry Scone 1.51* 1.51*  No change*
Caffè Nero Chocolate Fudge Cake 1.29  0.9  30% reduction
Caffè Nero Passion Cake 1.14  Not available No longer available
McDonald's Double Chocolate Muffin 1.1 1.2 9% increase
Prêt A Manger Double Berry Muffin 1.05 1.05  No change

*Since the survey was conducted Starbuck's has informed us that their berry scone has been reduced to 1.28g. 

10 Highest product in 2011

Brand Product Name 2010: Salt per portion (g) 2011: Salt per portion (g) Change since 2010
McDonald's Low Fat Blueberry Muffin 1.7 1.7 No Change
EAT. Toasted Fruited Brioche (not including butter) Not Available 1.6 New Product
Starbucks Berry Scone 1.51 1.51 No Change
Pret A Manger Choc Bar 1.528 1.5 2% reduction
EAT. Sultana Scone & Butter Not Available 1.5 New Product
Caffe Nero Luxury Fruit Scone (not including butter or jam) 2.1 1.21 42% Reduction
EAT. Apple & Blackcurrant Crumble Cake Not Available 1.2 New Product
EAT. Sultana Scone, Clotted Cream & Jam Not Available 1.2 New Product
McDonald's Double Chocolate Muffin 1.1 1.2 9% Increase
EAT. Victoria Sponge Cake Not Available 1.1 New product


5 Lowest products in 2011

Company Product Name Salt per portion (g) Change since 2010
Starbucks Dolcetto al Cacao 0.03 No change
COSTA Mini Muffin Choc 0.048 No change
Starbucks Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Fairtrade 0.05 No change
Starbucks Belgian Chocolate Brownie Gluten Free Fairtrade 0.07 No change
Starbucks Magic Bar 0.08 New product



REF 1 Consensus Action on Salt and Health collected product data for coffee shop items in 2010 using the below methodology (full data available on request).
REF 2 Consensus Action on Salt and Health collected product data for 204 products. Data was collected online, in store and from customer services from EAT., Pret A Manger, Caffé Nero, Costa Coffee, Starbucks and McDonald’s  in October 2011 and compared to our survey carried out under the same methodology in October 2010 (full data available on request).  
The bakery items included pastries, croissants, tray bakes (e.g. flapjacks and brownies), biscuits, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, cheese cakes, tarts and pies.
REF 3 McDonald’s Big Mac 2.1g salt, McDonald’s Hamburger 1.2g salt: (accessed 6 Oct 2011)
REF 4 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 5 Responsibility deal salt reduction pledgers: (accessed Oct 6 2011)

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