Bakery industry warned about salt content

By Karen Willmer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Sandwiches

Many of the UK's sandwiches contain the same amount of salt as
seven bags of crisps, according to a study by Consensus
Action on Salt and Health (CASH) published today.

This follows data published by the Food Standards Agency in March to encourage food manufacturers and retailers to reduce the amount of salt in foods. "For the past three years, the agency has been working with industry to encourage reductions in the levels of salt in a range of foods, including sandwiches,"​ Bradley Smyth from the FSA told BakeryandSnacks.com. "Much has been achieved so far but as Cash's survey highlights, there is more to be done and work in this area needs to continue." ​ The study revealed that 41 per cent of the 140 sandwiches tested contained more than a third of the day's recommended maximum salt limit (6g), and 8 per cent contained over half the adult daily limit in one serving. "In theUK, we buy almost 1.7 billion sandwiches a year, spending around £2.8 billion,"​ said Carrie Bold, CASH project assistant. "We have calculated that theUKpopulation consumes around 3,000 tonnes of salt a year, just from packaged sandwiches." ​In March, the Department of Health said high salt intakes are a major contributor to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes. It said the average daily consumption in the UK was 10g per day, with 75 per cent coming from processed foods. The study by CASH revealed the saltiest sandwich was ASDA Extra Special Yorkshire Ham and Hawes Wensleydale containing 3.9g of salt per serving, followed by Pret a Manger's All Day Breakfast sandwich with 3.54g of salt and Tesco's Finest All Day Breakfast sandwich with 3.5g of salt. "We think that the government are going a good job and we would like to see the campaign continue to reduce the amount of salt that we are eating​," Carrie Bold told BakeryandSnacks.com today. "We support sign-post labelling on all manufactured products and specifically, with regard to Pret A Manger and other packaged sandwich makers, we would like to see their packaging contain basic nutritional labelling." ​ In comparison, a McDonald's Big Mac contains 2g of salt, a bag of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.5g, and many ready-meals contain less than 1.6g in a whole meal. The survey said the average sandwich salt content was 1.9g."Cutting our salt intake in the UK is vital, as recent research has shown that people who are able to reduce their salt intake by 2-3g per day can reduce their risk of having a stroke or heart attack by one quarter,"​ said Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH. ​The study also revealed the same variety of sandwich can have different salt levels across retailers, for example, the Subway Tuna sandwich had 2.8g of salt compared to 0.6g in the Co-op Healthy Living Tuna and Cucumber sandwich. However, director of the British Sandwich Association, Jim Winship, told BakeryandSnacks.com, "We are somewhat bemused by the CASH survey as it is extremely inaccurate. It is very misleading as it appears to manipulate the results they got simply for the sake of making headlines." "Commercial sandwich makers in theUKdo not add salt to their sandwiches, I do not know a single one who does. Salt comes in through ingredients being used and the industry has been working for some years now to find ways of reducing salt levels." ​He said that the 1.9g per serving average salt content was acceptable for a main meal and within the FSA's guidelines and much of the salt intake came from the ingredients of sandwiches. "Some sandwiches will always contain high salt content both because of the ingredients and because consumers demand them. It is not the job of the sandwich industry to dictate what consumers should eat." ​ In response to the FSA regarding the review of food labelling by the EU in May, CASH said, "we recommend that the WHO recommendation of 5g of salt a day for adults is used as the recommended maximum daily intake and that this becomes standard across the EU". ​However, Winship added, "The salt awareness campaigns run by the government are generally a good thing, but their impact so far is questionable. Sugar is, for example, probably more damaging to health than salt is, yet it gets very little attention." ​ The British Heart Foundation says that cardiovascular disease, of which salt is a major contributor, cost the NHS around £15bn in 2003 and they estimate the total cost to the UK economy to be just under £26bn a year. CASH noted that people who cut back on the amount of salt in their diet by up to 3g per day could reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 25%. "For each 1g of salt we can cut out of our national average intake, we will save over 6,500 lives each year,"​ added Professor MacGregor. Mr Winship also defended the attacks against Pret a Manger for the lack of labelling on their products, particularly due to their high salt content. "All prepackaged sandwiches carry details of salt and sodium contents so consumers can easily make a reasoned choice. It would be very difficult for sandwich bars to do the same as they don't generally have the resources for analysis."

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