- Some breads surveyed had as much salt as seawater1
- More than a third of breads worldwide have more salt than UK maximum salt reduction target for bread2
- Over half of breads surveyed have more than half a gram of salt per portion
- WASH calls for governments worldwide to take urgent action and reinvigorate salt reduction programmes
Please click here for full survey data WASH 2018 Bread Survey [PDF 1,538KB]
Bread features heavily in many diets worldwide, and is one of the biggest sources of salt in diets. A new survey3 by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), based at Queen Mary University of London, has revealed the shocking levels of salt present in this essential staple. WASH surveyed over 2,000 white, wholemeal, mixed grain and flat breads from 32 countries and regions, and found that the saltiest bread in the survey – Rosemary Foccacia by ACE Bakery, available in Canada – had a shocking 2.65g of salt per 100g, which is saltier than seawater1! In fact, more than a third (34%) of breads had more salt than the UK’s maximum salt target for bread (1.13g/100g)2.
Flat breads and wholemeal breads were more salty than other bread types in the survey, with an average salt content of 1.08g per 100g, compared to mixed grain breads, which had the lowest average salt content of 1.02g/100g. Worryingly, some flat breads had more than 1.50g of salt per portion, a third of the maximum daily intake of salt as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO, 5g)4 and as much salt as 4 bags of ready salted crisps!5
More than 40% (44%) of white breads included in the survey had more salt than the UK’s maximum salt target. The Republic of Macedonia produced white breads with the highest salt content, averaging 1.42g/100g, compared to China which had the lowest average salt content of 0.65g/100g. When considering portion size, Toaster Bread by Golden Crust, available in South Africa, had the most salt per portion of all white breads, with 2.46g per 250g portion - more salt than 4 portions of McDonald’s fries6!
Despite the UK’s progress with salt reduction to date7, the average salt content of wholemeal breads from Qatar, China, Costa Rica and South Africa (0.78g/100g – 0.92g/100g) were lower than the average salt content of wholemeal breads in the UK (0.93g/100g). This suggests that salt reduction progress may have slowed in the UK and demonstrates that mandatory salt reduction targets, such as those put in place in South Africa8, are more effective than voluntary targets.
Although mixed grain breads had the lowest salt content of the bread categories, there was still a huge variation within this category. The highest salt bread - Bread type "Tipov" with Many Seeds by Milena MK, available in Bulgaria - had a salt content of 2.50g/100g, compared to the lowest salt bread - Pan Real tipo integral by Konig, available in Costa Rica - with a salt content of 0.09g/100g, a massive 27-fold difference in salt content!
A quarter of the products surveyed had no guidance on pack of what the portion size should be, making it difficult for consumers to judge how much of the product they should be eating. Of those that did have portion information, more than half had over half a gram of salt per suggested portion.
In the UK, bread is the single biggest contributor of salt to people’s diets, providing nearly a fifth of salt intake from processed foods9. This is also true for many countries worldwide, where mandatory or voluntary salt reduction targets exist for bread10. Reducing salt in bread is an easy and effective way of lowering salt intake across the whole population – research has shown that the salt content of bread could be lowered by 25% over 6 weeks and consumers would not notice the difference11.
A recent survey by WASH12 found that a third of respondents felt that the WHO could do more to encourage countries to lower salt intakes. However, the majority of respondents felt that their country’s government should take primary responsibility.
Mhairi Brown, Nutritionist at WASH, says: “This survey clearly demonstrates the progress still to be made to lower salt intake by 30% by 2025, in line with WHO recommendations. Bread is an essential staple food in many countries but is still a key source of salt in our diets due to the frequency with which we eat bread. Globally we must do more to reduce salt intake, and a simple way to do this is to lower salt in our staple foods.”
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiology at Queen Mary, University of London, and WASH Chairman says: “Eating too much salt puts up our blood pressure, the major cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Reducing salt intake around the world would save millions of lives each year and all countries should be working towards reducing salt intake by 30% by 2025. Our survey has shown that many bread manufacturers internationally are still adding huge and unnecessary amounts of salt to their products. Governments must act now and reinvigorate salt reduction work in the food industry.”
David Clarke: firstname.lastname@example.org M: (+44) 7773 225516
Notes to editor:
World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) was established in 2005 as the international arm of Action on Salt (formerly Consensus Action on Salt and Health, CASH), and is a global group with the mission to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake. WASH has the support of more than 500 members from 100 countries, who are mainly experts in hypertension, cardiovascular disease or kidney disease, but also work in public health and nutrition.
- Atlantic seawater contains 1.0g of sodium per 100g, which equates to 2.5g of salt per 100g
- Public Health England have issued guideline salt targets for over 80 categories of food, which the food industry are encouraged to follow on a voluntary basis. The maximum target for salt levels in bread and bread rolls, without high salt additions, is 1.13g/100g https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/604338/Salt_reduction_targets_for_2017.pdf
- Data on UK fresh, packaged breads were collected from all supermarkets (Aldi, ASDA, Co Op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose) in October 2017. Product data was collected in store from product packaging using the FoodSwitch Data Collector App, and where not available, captured online from the retailers’ website.
Between August 2017 and January 2018, WASH members collected nutrition data from fresh, packaged white, wholemeal, mixed grain and flat breads and rolls, using information printed on packaging or available online via supermarket or manufacturers websites. In Oman, Saudi Arabia and Serbia, salt content was determined using laboratory analysis.
2,318 bread products from 32 countries and regions were included. The survey was not intended to be a comprehensive survey of all available packaged breads in each country but rather to give an indication of salt levels present in widely available breads worldwide. Data was provided by:
- Argentina – Lorena Allemandi, FIC Argentina
- Australia – Clare Farrand, The George Institute, and The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation
- Belgium – Sigrid Lauryssen and Letizia Ceragioli, Test Achats
- Brazil – Eliana Bistriche Giutini, Food Research Centre
- Bulgaria - Vesselka Duleva, National Centre of Public Health and Analyses Bulgaria
- Canada – Mary L’Abbe, University of Toronto
- China – Yuan Li, The George Institute China
- Costa Rica –MSc. Adriana Blanco Metzler and Jaritza Vega Solano, INCIENSA
- Denmark – Natasha Selberg, Danish Heart Foundation
- Ecuador – Enrique Teran, Universidad San Francisco de Quito and Isabel Hernandez, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
- Finland – Satu Mannisto, Sanni Aalto and Liisa Valsta, National Institute for Health and Welfare
- Greece – Joanna Avakian, University of Thessaly
- Hong Kong S.A.R., China – Tai Hing Lam, Shiu Lun Au Yeung, Zhi-Ming Mai and Ho Ching Yeung, The University of Hong Kong
- Hungary – Barbara Nagy, National Institute for Pharmacy and Nutrition
- India – Ashok Kanchan, Consumer Voice India
- Italy – Pietro Modesti, University of Florence
- Japan – Naoko Adachi and Kaoruko Inoue, University of Tokyo, and Yukiko Okami, Hiromi Yamauchi and Katsuyuki Miura, Shiga University of Medical Science
- Kuwait – Nawal M. Al Hamad and Shahad B. Al-Muneer, Public Authority for Food and Nutrition
- Malaysia – Suzana Shahar, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
- Morocco – Abdelfettah Derouiche, Université HassanII Mohammedia FSBM Casablanca
- New Zealand – Helen Eyles, University of Auckland, and UniServices
- Nigeria – Bashir Garba Ahmad, Muhammad Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital, Kano State
- Oman – Dr Salima Almamary, Ministry of Health
- Qatar – Dr. Al-Anoud Mohammed Al-Thani,Manager, Health Promotion and Non-Communicable Diseases, Ministry of Public Health
- Republic of Macedonia – Igor Spiroski, Institute of Public Health
- Saudi Arabia – Hessah Abdullah Al-Hussaini, Ministry of Health
- Serbia – Milka Popovic, University of Novi Sad
- South Africa – Pamela Naidoo, Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
- Spain – Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) and Lourdes Samaniego Vaesken, Universidad CEU – San Pablo
- Sweden – Veronika Ohrvik, Livsmedelsverket
- UK – WASH
- USA – Abby Dilk, CSPI
- WHO recommended salt intake for adults is 5g/day: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77985/1/9789241504836_eng.pdf
- In the UK, a bag of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps (25g) contains 0.35g salt https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/254926800
- In the UK, McDonald’s Medium Fries have 0.62g of salt per portion https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/good-to-know/nutrition-calculator.html
- The UK’s salt reduction programme set clear targets for the food industry to achieve and, as a result, the salt content of processed food was gradually reduced. As this was done slowly, the public did not notice the difference in taste and there was no reduction in sales. Salt intake fell by 15% in the UK between 2001-2011, preventing thousands of strokes and heart attacks each year
- Department of Health South Africa. Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972): Regulations relating to the reduction in certain foodstuffs and related matters. Pretoria: Government Gazette, 2013
- UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey Data - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594361/NDNS_Y1_to_4_UK_report_full_text_revised_February_2017.pdf
- Trieu K, Neal B, Hawkes C, Dunford E, Campbell N, Rodriguez-Fernandez R, et al. (2015) Salt Reduction Initiatives around the World – A Systematic Review of Progress towards the Global Target. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0130247. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130247
- Girgis, S., Neal, B., Prescott, J., Prendergast, J., Dumbrell, S., Turner, C. et al. (2003). A one-quarter reduction in the salt content of bread can be made without detection. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57, 616 – 620. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601583
- In January 2018, WASH issued a survey via Survey Monkey to WASH members, and placed on social media pages, asking for responses to the following questions:
• What salt reduction activities are currently in place in your country?
• Who is responsible for salt reduction in your country?
• Is enough being done to lower salt reduction in your country?
• Who should take more action to lower salt intake in your country?
• Which country is setting the best example with salt reduction and could be used as a model for other countries?
WASH received 59 responses to the survey.