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And for dessert, madam – a salty sponge, perhaps?

1st August 2005

The following survey was based on manufacturer's sodium figures declared on product labels. Since publication two manufacturers have informed us that the sodium information on their labels is inaccurate and that the true sodium content is considerably lower than stated.

Whilst we are pleased to note that these products contains significantly less salt than indicated, the Food Commission is still concerned that salt is added to products which consumers would reasonably expect to be salt free.

The Food Commission takes a look at processed puddings and finds the manufacturers are keen to boost the flavour with a dose of salt – as much as they put in crisps or bacon!

At a time when the Food Standards Agency is putting pressure on UK food companies to reduce the salt in their products, we went shopping in those regions the government forgot to examine – the desserts and puddings aisle. And we were surprised by what we found.

We expected the biscuits and cakes would have a pinch of salt – most biscuit recipes suggest adding salt to the mix – but we found several products to be just as salty as bread at over 1% salt.

And we certainly didn't expect to find one of them – Morrison's strawberry sponge – to be an incredible 5% salt. That's saltier than grilled bacon! Just one portion provides an entire day's maximum recommended amount for a healthy adult. (Morrisons have since informed us that this product is mislabelled and contains 0.52g salt per 100g, equivalent to 0.6g salt per serving. This is one tenth of an adult's recommended maximum daily salt intake)

The food industry's love of lacing their products with flavour boosting ingredients – such as salt, monosodium glutamate, and flavour additives – may serve to boost sales but adds nothing to the healthiness of our diets.

All too often, salt is being used to encourage us to eat fatty (and in this case sugary) processed food products that we should be eating less of, and the effect is to lead us to eat a diet that is less healthy overall, to say nothing of the direct effects of salt in raising blood pressure (leading to increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease).

Used to increase the sales of processed foods, salt is a marketing tool that distorts consumer perception by tricking the taste buds. It manipulates consumer choice, largely subconsciously.

Perhaps the Food Standards Agency should ensure that unhealthy ingredients are no longer used as a marketing tool. If we wait for industry to clean up its act we will be waiting far too long.

What is ‘high salt’?

Just eat a couple of the desserts shown on this page and you could have had a third or even a half of the total recommended daily maximum salt for your age group.

Recommended maximum daily amounts for each age group
as sodium
as salt
Children 1-3
0.8g
2g
Children 4-6
1.2g
3g
Children 7-10
2.0g
5g
Children 11+
2.4g
6g
Adult women
2.0g
5g*
Adult men
2.8g
7g*
From: Salt & Health, published by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, 2003
* Note: For simplicity, the recommended maximum for adults is often averaged to 6g of salt (2.4g sodium) per day.

 

All the products on this page are medium or high salt products.

According to the Food Standards Agency, a 'high salt' product is one with 0.5g or more of sodium per 100 grams of the product, and a 'low salt' product is one with 0.1g or less of sodium per 100 grams of the product. A medium salt product is one with between 0.1g and 0.5g sodium per 100g of the product. Note that 1g sodium is equivalent to 2.5g salt.

All salt information was calculated from sodium figures declared on product labels. Boots and M&S helpfully provide salt as well as sodium figures. The other manufacturers do not.

Angel Delight2.2% salt in this regular 67g packet of Angel Delight, as sold. This provides half a gram of salt in each serving (assuming you share the pudding four ways).
Angel Delight3.5% salt in this 'No Added Sugar' 47g version, as sold. This product, like the regular version, provides half a gram of salt per serving (note that the product is 20g lighter because sugar has been replaced with artificial sweeteners )
Syrup spongeThere is 0.7% salt in this Golden Syrup sponge pudding, providing 0.9 grams salt in a single serving – more than a typical bag of crisps.
Lemon Sponge PuddingsOver 1% salt in this sponge, and a single portion provides 1.3 grams. A typical bag of crisps provides 0.6-0.8 grams.
Carrot CakeA carrot cake from Boots carrying 0.9% salt, and providing 0.7g salt in a portion. That’s equivalent to the bag of crisps that you can have instead, as part of their ‘Meal Deal’. So much for trying to avoid salty foods!
CookieAlso from Boots comes this large cookie, offered as part of their 'Meal Deal'. It comes in at 1.3% salt, with 0.8g salt in a single portion.
Clipper drinkOK, forget the dessert and settle for a hot drink instead. This Clipper organic, low fat product offers about 1.7% salt as sold, giving you half a gram of salt in every steaming mug.

Useful resources

The Food Standards Agency has produced a website which explains why too much salt can be bad for us. See http://www.salt.gov.uk/

CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) also has a useful website – see http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/

 

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