One in four loaves of bread contains as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps, new research has found.
Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), a campaign group of medics, surveyed the salt content of 294 fresh and packaged loaves from supermarkets and their in-store bakeries as well as chain and independent high street bakeries, and found many were packed with hidden salt.
Most people wouldn’t realise that bread contains so much salt, as it doesn’t taste salty.
It found 28 per cent of loaves surveyed contained as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps – or more in some cases.
CASH has called for clearer labelling on bread from in-store supermarket and high street bakeries, which often have no nutritional labelling, making it impossible for consumers to know how much salt they are eating.
It also found that as well as being unlabelled, some high street chain bread contains more than three times as much salt per 100g than bread baked in supermarkets.
The findings come after the Department of Health announced that bread is the largest contributor of salt to our diet, providing almost a fifth (18 per cent) of our current daily salt intake. Current salt intake in the UK is 8.6g, with the maximum daily recommendation at 6g.
CASH campaign director Katharine Jenner said: “Most people wouldn’t realise that bread contains so much salt, as it doesn’t taste salty. It is scandalous that there is no labelling on fresh bread. Without it, how are we supposed to know where salt is hidden and cut our intake to less than 6g a day?”
CASH found the highest standard packaged bread was Cranks Seeded Farmhouse at 2.03g per 100g, which contained nearly four times more salt than the lowest – a Marks & Spencer’s Simply More Eat Well Healthiest White Bread (0.58g per 100g).
It said speciality breads, such as rye bread, were often perceived as healthier but could be high in salt.
The CASH chairman, Professor Graham MacGregor, 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.
“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 went beyond these targets and 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.”
British Retail Consortium food director Andrew Opie said: “Our members have made fantastic progress reducing the levels of salt in food in recent years. It’s good to see that many of the loaves of bread with the lowest levels of salt are supermarket own-brands.
“These are the breads which sell at the greatest volume and that people are likely to eat every day, so reducing the salt in them makes a significant difference to the health of the nation.
“Reducing salt levels in speciality breads is much harder. Retailers and manufacturers have just announced they are choosing to fund independent scientific research to try and find ways of meeting new salt-reduction targets for a range of products, while still making foods which consumers want to buy.
“There’s a danger if salt is reduced further that products will no longer taste the way customers want them to.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We welcome the considerable salt reductions that bread makers have already made, and it is very pleasing to see that around 60 per cent of the products sampled already meet the salt targets for 2012.
“This is an important step in helping to reduce salt intake, as well as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and resulting strokes and heart disease.
“We look forward to seeing further reductions as more companies meet the targets.”