Warning on danger of salt in bread and cereals

November 12, 2012

Warning on danger of salt in bread and cereals

Salt intake can increase blood pressure if excessive and that in turn increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. So it comes as a concern when the UK government started an advertising campaign warning breakfast cereals and bread often contain too much salt. The FSA (Food Standards Agency) is the body responsible for the safety of our food and when they polled shoppers they found that 77% did not know that the public take in more salt by eating breakfast cereals and bread than through any other foodstuff, even nuts and crisps. The FSA poll asked shoppers to select from a list of 10 foodstuffs what they thought were the biggest contributors of salt to our diets. Only 13% thought that bread was high in salt and 12% recognised breakfast cereals as high in salt. The figures produced by the FSA state that if the average adult in the UK consumed less than 6 grams a day of salt then 16,000 lives and billions of pounds could be saved annually. High blood pressure is known to increase the chances of someone having a stroke or heart disease threefold and doubles the likelihood that they will die because of the conditions. Today the average person in Britain takes in 8.6g of salt everyday, this is an improvement on 1994 when it was 9.5g. Then the FSA conducted the ‘Sid the Slug’ campaign and it calculated that the saving to the country was f1.5 billion per annum because about 6,000 people did not die prematurely or require hospital treatment. What this actually means is that if someone eats 10 slices of Warburtons’ bread, a major seller in the UK, over the period of one day then they are over the government recommended limit without eating anything else. Each slice of Warburtons’ ‘Our Thickest Slice’ bread contains 0.62 g of salt. And a regular 30g serving of Kellogg’s Rice Crispies has 0.7g in it, that’s the same amount as one and a half packets of crisps.

In the UK the largest amount of salt is consumed through eating grain products, in the average diet, meat is the next biggest provider of salt with 26% and then dairy produce provides another 8% of our daily salt intake.

Rosemary Hignett is the head of nutrition at the FSA and she says, “We’re not suggesting people stop eating or even cut down on bread or breakfast cereals, as they are an important part of a healthy diet. But we are saying take a look at the labels to find those products that are lower in salt. This could be a supermarket own-label product or maybe one from the ‘value’ range”.

These comments are in response to the fact that the supermarket chains have been proactive in reducing the salt content in their own brands whilst companies like Warburtons and Kellogg’s have not been so successful. The new advertising campaign encourages consumers to check the labels to see what the salt content is to ensure that the healthiest option is purchased.

The Association of Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers have countered that its members continually strive to reduce the amount of salt in their products and since 1998 had reduced salt levels by almost a half (44%). And Gordon Polson, who is director of the Federation of Bakers, explains that the frequency of eating certain foods is what pushes up the amounts of salt our bodies take in, it’s not that the food is high in salt. He says, “The foods that contribute the most salt to our diets do not necessarily have to have the highest salt content, but can just be the ones that we eat the most often”.

Not surprisingly Kellogg’s are less than happy too. Paul Wheeler, their spokesman said: “A bowl of Rice Krispies gives you less than a tenth of your daily allowance of salt, and over the next couple of months we’ll reduce that by a further 20 per cent. We’ve been reducing salt in our cereals, by a total of 40 per cent, for the last 10 years – that’s why we’re disappointed to be singled out in this campaign”.

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