New research has found that bread, whether it be your morning slice of toast, your lunchtime sandwich or dipped in your soup, could be packed with hidden salt.
Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) 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 that more than 1 in 4 (28 per cent) loaves of bread contain as much salt, or even more, per slice than a packet of crisps. These findings come shortly 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.
CASH’s research has highlighted large variations in the salt content of bread, making it essential to read the labels, where available, and compare products by 100g (equivalent to 2 thick slices of bread [Ref 4]). The highest standard packaged bread, Cranks Seeded Farmhouse at 2.03g/100g, contains nearly FOUR times more salt than the lowest, a Marks & Spencer’s Simply More Eat Well Healthiest White Bread (0.58g/100g).
5 of the highest salt popular packaged breads per 100g
The fresh bread available from in-store supermarket bakeries and high street bakeries has no nutritional labelling available in store, making it impossible for consumers to either choose lower salt options, or to know how much salt they are eating. The research found supermarkets’ unlabelled in-store bakery bread is generally higher than the supermarkets’ packaged bread, with differences of more than half a gram between similar products. For instance Sainsbury’s fresh ‘Large Wholemeal Loaf’ contains over half a gram (0.55g) more salt per 100g than the packaged equivalent (Medium Wholemeal) (1.29g per 100g compared to 0.74g per 100g).
You might expect premium high street bakery chains such as Paul and Le Pain Quotidien to be providing healthier options, but this research has 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 (a Pain De Campagne from Paul contains 2.83g/100g compared to Waitrose White Long Split Tin which contains 0.84g/100g). At 2.83g per 100g, the Pain De Campagne from Paul contains a greater concentration of salt than seawater [Ref 5]! Bread from a local independent bakery however fared much better in the survey, with one white loaf found to contain just 0.56g/100g, almost half of the Department of Health’s 1g salt target .
5 of the highest bakery breads per 100g
“Most people wouldn’t realise that bread contains so much salt, as it doesn’t taste salty” says Katharine Jenner, CASH Campaign Director, based at Queen Mary, University of London. “You certainly wouldn’t expect to be eating more salt than a packet of crisps in just one slice of your favourite bread! 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?”
Most packaged breads available in supermarkets have clear labelling on the front of the pack – however as NONE of the products have a green ‘traffic light’ label, CASH would advise you to choose products containing 1 gram or less salt per 100g, or about 0.4g per slice.
Speciality breads, such as rye bread, are often perceived as healthier options; however they can be deceptively high in salt. For instance, Schneider Brot Organic Rye Bread with Sunflower Seeds contains over one gram (1.02g) of salt per slice (1.43g per 100g).
Children should eat even less salt than adults, however a recent study showed that infants were far exceeding their daily allowance, as many parents frequently feed their child bread, not realising bread is a salty choice. Parents could feed their children up to a gram less salt a day just by making their sandwiches with the lowest salt bread.
5 of the lowest salt popular packaged breads per 100g
“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 [Ref 6],” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. “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.”
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