Consumers need to become more aware of salt levels in foods

A typical lunch of soup, a sandwich and a chocolate muffin can contain more than an adults’ recommended salt intake per day

15 November, 2010. Eating a typical lunch of a bowl of soup, a bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwich and a chocolate muffin can account for more than an adults’ recommended salt intake per day [1]. Launching its latest workplace salt awareness campaign, safefood is reminding consumers to check food labels and choose lower salt options where possible, as the majority of dietary salt is from processed foods such as processed meats, sauces and bread.

The safefood workplace salt campaign “Salt Alert”, will see workplace restaurants in 55 companies and organisations totalling approximately 65,000 employees across the island of Ireland taking part in the 2-week campaign, helping them become more salt aware.

Commenting on the campaign, Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood, said: “It’s encouraging to see so many employers taking part in the campaign and helping raise awareness of salt in the workplace restaurant setting. High dietary salt intake can have serious health consequences such as stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. There is a misconception that salt intake is related to salt added at the table but the majority of salt in the diet is added during manufacturing of processed foods. I realise industry has done much to reduce the salt levels in processed foods but we’re now at a bit of an impasse because we are at a stage where consumer demand for lower salt options hasn’t really changed”.

“We now need to do our part by becoming more salt aware and choosing lower salt options – less processed foods and meats and lower salt bread and breakfast cereals”, he continued.

Companies and organisations participating in the all island campaign are drawn from a variety of sectors in the economy including finance, technology, local government, law enforcement, education, telecomms, pharmaceutical and manufacturing.

Each participating company and organisation will receive branded posters, table tent cards and salt information materials for their workplace restaurant. The materials have been designed to help consumers think about reducing or ceasing their salt usage and remind them of the health risks associated with consuming too much salt. The workplace campaign is being launched with the support of the Irish Heart Foundation and Chest Heart & Stroke, Northern Ireland.

Excess dietary salt consumed throughout life causes blood pressure to rise steadily and high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease which account for 1 in 3 of all deaths.

Adults should aim to eat no more than 6g salt a day but research shows that in the Republic of Ireland, the average daily salt intake by adults is 9.3g (safefood “Salt: Hard to Shake” study 2010). In Northern Ireland the average intake of salt is 8.6g per day (Food Standards Agency UK Urinary Salt Study 2007). In both cases consumption is well in excess of the recommended 6g per day as advocated by health professionals.

Participating companies are also being encouraged to circulate details of the campaign through internal communications, company intranet sites as well as highlighting their low salt options on menu boards during campaign.

For further information, try our salt calculator or download safefood's latest research, "Salt: Hard to Shake".

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For further information please contact

Susie Cunningham / Cliodhna Lamont,

WHPR

Telephone: 01 669 0030 / 087 8505055 (Susie) and 087 9250874 (Cliodhna)

Email: susie.cunningham@ogilvy.com and cliodhna.lamont@ogilvy.com

Dermot Moriarty

safefood

Telephone: 01 448 0600 / mobile 086 381 1034

References

[1] Of adults recommended salt intake of 6g per day:

  • Two slices of white bread contain almost 15%
  • Two rashers of grilled bacon contain almost 40%
  • Half a tin of soup contains almost 37%
  • An average chocolate muffin contains almost 10%

Editors Notes

  • Consumers can estimate the salt content of food by multiplying the sodium content on the food label by 2.5.
  • Foods high in salt contain more than 0.5g of sodium or 1.3g of salt per 100g. These include cured and processed meat products, soups and sauces and savoury snacks.
  • Younger children are particularly at risk from excessive salt levels in their diet and should eat less than adults. Salt should not be added to toddlers’ food.

ROI - Salt consumption by food group/category

Contribution to overall salt intake (%)

Food/Food Category Republic of Ireland
Cereals, breads and potatoes 34
Meat, fish and poultry 22
Soups, sauces and breads 14
Vegetables 11
Dairy products and fats 10
Sweets, savoury snacks 8
Drinks 1
Fruits 0
Milk 0

SLAN-07 study: Food groups contributing to salt intake based on Food Frequency Questionnaire data.

NI - Salt consumption by food group/category

Contribution to overall salt intake (%)

Food/Food category UK (including NI)
Cereals and cereal products 30
Meat and meat products 28
Vegetables, potatoes 9
Milk and milk products 8
Fish and fish dishes 5
Fat spreads 3
Savoury snacks 2
Eggs and egg dishes 2

Nutritional Diet Nutrition Survey (NDNS) 2008/2009: Food Standards Agency 2010