Health action group calls for salt levels to be reduced and for loaf labelling to be improved, especially by supermarket own brands
One in every four loaves of bread sold in the UK high street contain as much salt in every slice as a packet of crisps, according to research published.
The worst offenders are those perceived to be healthier options – brown loaves packed with seeds and mixed grains, and artisan breads from upmarket bakery chains.
The research was carried out by the health group Cash (Consensus Action on Salt & Health), which analysed 294 fresh and packaged loaves from supermarkets and their in-store bakeries, and from chain and independent shops. Researchers examined the salt content of 100g of bread – equivalent to two thick slices – and found huge variations.
More than a quarter of loaves (28%) contained as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps.
Cash said consumers were unwittingly eating too much salt, and were let down by the absence of nutritional labels on supermarkets’ in-store bread, which made it impossible for them to make healthier choices.
A brown pain de campagne loaf made by London bakery Paul was singled out as by far the saltiest, containing 2.83g of salt per 100g – a higher salt concentration than seawater.
Its white pain ancien and brown pain complet were the next highest in salt content of the bakery breads (1.85g and 1.43g of salt per 100g) while Le Pain Quotidien’s blanc de campagne was the fourth highest (1.41g).
A standard 34.5g packet of Walkers ready salted crisps contains 0.5g of salt.
The saltiest packaged bread was Cranks seeded farmhouse which, at 2.03g per 100g, had nearly four times more salt than the lowest – Marks & Spencer’s Simply More Eat Well healthiest white bread (0.58g per 100g).
The second worst packaged offender was Vogel’s original mixed grain (1.38g of salt per 100g) followed by Asda’s Chosen By You Baker’s Gold white farmhouse (1.2g salt) – the only white loaf in the top five.
A spokesman for Paul said its recipes were being changed immediately “to benefit from a reduction of 3g of salt per kg of flour without compromising on [the flavour of] fifth-generation French family recipes”.
Vogel’s said salt was essential to keep bread moist, inhibit mould and control fermentation and added that it would “continue to review the salt content in our bread without compromising our quality and the natural processes we use”.
Bread is now the largest contributor of salt to our diet, providing almost a fifth (18%) of our daily salt intake. But too much salt can cause high blood pressure, leading to potentially fatal strokes and heart disease.
Cash hailed the progress made by some manufacturers, with salt content in bread reduced by nearly a third over the past decade as a result of product reformulation.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Cash and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, 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 per 100g.”
Andrew Opie, director of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Our members have made fantastic progress reducing the levels of salt in food in recent years.
“Reducing salt levels in speciality breads is much harder. Retailers and manufacturers have just announced they’re choosing to fund independent scientific research to try to find ways of meeting new salt-reduction targets for a range of products.”
Popular packaged breads with highest salt content (per 100g)
1 Cranks seeded farmhouse, 2.03g
2 Vogel’s original mixed grain, 1.38g
3 Asda Chosen By You Baker’s Gold white farmhouse, 1.2g
4 Marks & Spencer Eat Well multigrain bloomer with 30% grains, 1.15g
5 Morrisons thick sunflower and pumpkin loaf, 1.1g
Five loaves with lowest salt
1 Marks & Spencer Simply More Eat Well healthiest white bread, 0.58g
2 Tesco Stayfresh white sliced bread medium, 0.6g
3 Marks & Spencer Eat Well oaty bloomer, made with 30% oats, 0.65g
4 Marks & Spencer toasting white, 0.73g
5 Sainsbury’s medium wholemeal, 0.74g
Source: Guardian News