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Action on Salt

Butter and margarine Survey

● 7 out of 10 (70%) salted butters surveyed would receive a red traffic light for salt
● Less than 4 out of 10 (38%) of butter and margarine meet the Department of Health’s 2012 Salt Targets
● ‘Low fat’ spreads can be even higher in salt than the full fat versions – One was as salty as seawater [6]!
● Marks & Spencer Softer Butter described as ‘slightly salted’ is SALTIER than its own Salted Farmhouse Butter
● Approximately 3% of the of salt we eat comes from fat spreads, and 10% of fat and saturated fat

butter and spread data [PDF 319KB]

 Oils data [PDF 347KB]

For media coverage: Fats and Spreads Media Coverage

For the first time, research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health [CASH] reveals the shockingly high and unnecessary levels of salt in butter, margarine, fats and spreads [1].  The survey looked at over 300 products, from all the leading supermarkets, and found a large proportion of ‘fats and spreads’ (62%) have failed to achieve the 2012 salt targets set out by the Department of Health [2].  On average people consume 11g fats and spread a day [3], however, whilst people are aware of the high fat content of fats and spreads and the risks linked to obesity, they rarely think about its contribution to their daily salt intake and their blood pressure.  

High examples of Butter NB. A portion has been standardised to 10g throughout [4];
1. Country Life Butter, 2g salt per 100g, 0.2g per portion
2. Essential Waitrose Salted Dairy Butter, 1.9g salt per 100g, 0.19g per portion
3. Simply M&S English Salted Butter, 1.75g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
4. Anchor Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
5. Asda English Salted Butter/Asda Smart Price Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion

High examples of Margarines/Spreads;
1. Weight Watchers Dairy Spread, 2.5g salt per 100g, 0.25g per portion
2. Clover Lighter and Clover Spread, 1.8g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
3. Aldi Spread the Love, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
4. Lidl Heavenly Butter Spread, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion
5. Marks & Spencer Touch of Butter, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion

“Our health would be better if we only had a ‘little’ bit of butter on our bread” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH. “Our love affair with butter is bad for our hearts, and not just because it is full of fat; we often spread it on toast, use it in baking or add it to our cooking without thinking how much salt it contains.  Just one slice of buttered toast can contain more salt than a packet of crisps [5], so it’s worth looking at the label and choosing a lower salt or unsalted spread, or just use a little less next time you reach for the butter knife!”

Shockingly, terms on the labels can be deceptive: the salt content of varieties claiming they are ‘slightly salted’ or ‘lighter’ often do not differ much from ‘salted’ or ‘full fat’ products.  These products are targeting the health conscious shopper, who should expect these products to be lower in salt, when in fact they aren’t.
• Weight Watchers Dairy Spread contains 2.5g salt per 100g – that as salty per 100g as seawater [6]! vs Lurpak Spreadable Lighter Unsalted which contains NO salt per 100g (0g)
• Marks & Spencer Softer Butter described as 'slightly salted' is actually saltier than its own Salted Farmhouse Butter (1.75g per 100g vs. 1.5 per 100g)

Graham MacGregor, CASH Chairman and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London says “It is a national scandal that there is still so much unnecessary salt in our food - for every one gram reduction in salt intake, we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, strokes and heart failures, half of which would have been fatal.  As butter, margarine and other spreads are a hidden source of salt in our diets it is vital that the Department of Health ensures that manufacturers reduce the salt in these products immediately”

Salt is completely unnecessary in butter.  The good news is that unsalted varieties of butter are available from all supermarkets and brands, and lower salt spreads are available if you read the labels carefully, though be aware; they are all still high in saturated fat [7].  

Low examples of Margarines/Spreads;
1. Lurpak Spreadable Lighter Unsalted, 0g salt per 100g, 0g per portion
2. Lurpak Unsalted Spreadable, 0g salt per 100g, 0g per portion
3. Simply M&S Lower Fat Slightly Salted Spread, 0.75g salt per 100g, 0.08g per portion
4. Bertolli Light Made with Mild Olive Oil, 0.8g salt per 100g, 0.08g per portion
5. The Co-operative Spreadable Slightly Salted, 0.9g salt per 100g, 0.09g per portion

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation says “Shoppers clearly have to look twice when making the switch from butter to unsaturated spread. Not only do they need to keep an eye on the type of fat in their spreads but also how much salt they contain, too. With so many varieties on offer, picking a healthy spread is confusing enough for consumers. Manufactures and supermarkets must cut back on the salt in their products so there is one less thing for shoppers to worry about.”

Tips for making healthier choices;
● Opt for unsalted spreads and butters
● Think twice about diet spreads with less fat, they may have a higher salt content
● Have smaller portions or use it less often – a standard ‘portion’ is one catering pat of butter
● Opt for olive oil, canola (rapeseed) oil  or other vegetable oils high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat when cooking, as they have no salt and less saturated fat than butter


Notes to Editor
Go to for more information or contact:
● CASH - Katharine Jenner on: 020 7882 6018 or 07740 553298,  
● CASH - Professor Graham MacGregor on: 07946 405617,   
● National PR - Jessica Filbey on: 0207 242 2844 / 07967215644
● National PR - Tamara Swarbreck on: 0207 242 2844 / 07760 307830

Survey Details/References;
1 - Survey details, full data tables are available with this release
The survey looked at 314 products from all leading supermarkets (Aldi, ASDA, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). All types of fats and spreads available in stores at the time of collection were included: butter, margarine, lard and other animal fats, oil etc. Salt content of products were rounded to one decimal place.
Data was collected in store from 30th July to 1st August 2013 and products in this release purchased w/c 3rd Sept.

2 – The Department of Health’s salt targets
• Welsh and other regional butter - 2.0g salt per 100g (average)
• Salted butter - 1.68g salt per 100g (average)
• Lightly salted butter - 1.13g salt per 100g (average)
• Unsalted butter - 0.1g salt per 100g (average)
• Margarines/other spreads - 1.13g salt per 100g (average) 1.63g (maximum)

3 - Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) 2008-2011 was obtained from the UK Data Archives. Fats and spread consumption was recorded using a 4 day food diary. Average fat and spread consumption per day (in grams) was calculated as 11g for 2011.

4 – One standard sized catering pat of butter is 10g, and is generally given as the standard industry portion size

5 - A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.5g of salt (8.5% of the daily maximum recommendation of salt)

6 – Seawater contains 1.08g sodium per 100g (which equates to 2.5g salt – sodium chloride)

7 - Traffic Light Labelling
• Traffic light labelling given per 100g
• Colour coding based on new front of pack traffic Light labelling criteria.
Salt - Red >1.5g/100g, Amber >0.30≤1.50/100g, Green ≤0.30g/100g

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