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Fears raised over salt content in bread

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 2 September 2011

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Some slices of bread can contain as much salt as a packet of crisps, according to a campaigning group of clinicians, who have raised concerns over the salt content of bread in the UK. 

Experts are now calling on the government to insist that all bread is clearly labeled for its contents and that all manufacturers reduce the salt of bread to less than the salt target of 1g/100g. 

The charity Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) has today published results of a survey into bread, which looked at 294 loaves of bread from supermarkets and high street bakeries. 

This included all packaged loaves of bread, including branded products, as well as a sample of a standard white and standard wholemeal from each of the supermarket’s in store bakeries and from five high street bakeries. 

CASH found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) loaves of bread contain as much salt, or even more, per slice than a packet of crisps. 

There were large variations in the salt content of bread and the highest standard packaged bread contained nearly four times more salt than the lowest. 

CASH was particularly concerned at the fact that fresh bread available from in-store supermarket bakeries and high street bakeries has no nutritional labelling available in store, so consumers have no idea how much salt they are eating.

The research found supermarkets’ unlabelled in-store bakery bread was generally higher in salt than the supermarkets’ packaged bread, with differences of more than half a gram between similar products. 

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and chairman of CASH, said: “With bread being the biggest contributor of salt to our diets, it is frankly outrageous that bread still contains so much salt. The Department of Health needs to ensure that all bread is clearly labelled and that all manufacturers reduce the salt of bread to less than the salt target of 1g/100g. 

“It is the very high levels of salt that is hidden in everyday food, such as bread, that puts up both adults’ and children’s blood pressure. If all manufacturers cut the salt in their breads by a half, it would reduce our salt intakes by half a gram per day, which is predicted to prevent over 3,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks a year.”

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We know too many people are eating too much salt each day which can have an effect on their blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

“Some manufacturers are working towards targets for salt reduction, but we need more action to cut the salt content in bread and make sure they provide colour-coded food labels to help their customers.” 

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We welcome the considerable salt reductions that bread makers have already made, and it is very pleasing to see that around 60% of the products sample already meet the salt targets for 2012.  

“This is an important step in helping to reduce salt intake, as well lowering the risk of high blood pressure and resulting strokes and heart disease.” 

The spokesperson explained under EU legislation, there was currently no mandatory requirement for nutrition labelling unless a claim was made about the product or if vitamins and minerals had been added. Rules on nutrition labelling were currently being reviewed.

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