1st March 2007
High levels of salt in supermarket bread are putting up to 7,000 lives a year at risk, claims a damning study by health campaigners.
Bread is the largest source of salt in the British diet and excessive consumption can lead to increased blood pressure and a greater risk of heart attack.
The pressure group behind the study, Consensus Action on Salt and Health, yesterday called on shoppers to boycott breads with the highest levels of salt.
Researchers from the group surveyed 138 widely available loaves. They found that more than one in three contained salt levels above the Government's target of 1.1g per 100g.
The highest level was found in Morrison's The Best Farmhouse Malted Bread, which had a level of 1.5g per 100g or 0.7g per slice.
Just over four slices would put a child of six over the maximum daily recommended salt intake of 3g. Nine slices would take someone over the adult threshold of 6g.
The second highest salt reading was found in several Asda loaves, which had a level of 0.6g per slice. Eating just five of these would put a child over the recommended limit.
A total of 15 out of 18 Warburton products had a salt content higher than the Government's target, while all of the Sainsbury's and Waitrose breads surveyed were below.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Cash and an expert on medicine, said: 'Research has shown that a population cut of 1g of salt per day would equate to 7,000 lives saved each year from strokes and heart attacks, due to the drop in blood pressure that would occur.'
He called on the public to boycott bread which has more than 1.1g of salt per 100g.
A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation, Ruairi O'Connor, said: 'This research shows that despite some progress in reducing salt levels in bread, there remain wide variations in how much is contained across similar products.
'The BHF would like all breads to contain as little salt as possible, in order to reduce the nation's salt intake.
'People who are at risk of heart disease caused by high blood pressure need to reduce salt in their diets, and need to be able to quickly and accurately choose lower salt options when shopping.'
The charity is calling for the industry to adopt the traffic light labelling system developed by the Food Standards Agency. This uses red, amber and green logos to tell shoppers whether products are high, medium or low in salt, sugar and fat.
The Federation of Bakers said its members have made huge strides in reducing salt levels since 2005.
Its director, Gordon Polson, said the industry has agreed that bakers have until 2010 to reach the target of
1.1g of salt per 100g. He added: 'There has already been a ten per cent reduction in the two years to the end of 2005, and further reductions will be made to meet the 2010 target.'