A campaign group say that a single mug of hot chocolate can contain more salt that a packet of ready salted crisps.
Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) found that salt targets, that had been set by the government, were being exceeded in the vast majority of categories of packaged food.
They found that Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate powder contained just over 0.6g of salt per 25g serving, the equivalent of 2.5g per 100g, considerably over the 0.15g per 100g target. Mars Chocolate defended their product, saying that the drink was intended to be an “indulgent treat”, however Public Health England said that companies must try harder to reach targets. The confectionery company say that a proportion of the salt content came from the sodium found naturally in milk, as well as ingredients added “to enhance the chocolaty flavour”.
The Cash research was conducted on a wide range of food products and found only bread rolls had met PHE’s voluntary targets. Research was conducted by way of comparing two shopping baskets, both of which contained similar items but with different sale levels, using the FoodSwitch UK app. This is a free smartphone app that allows users to scan the barcode of packaged food and drink to see a “traffic light” form of colour-coded information, as well as suggestions of healthy alternatives.
The researchers found the difference in salt content between the “unhealthy” and “healthy” baskets of products was 57g of salt. The current recommendation for adults states they should consume no more than 6g of salt a day, and obviously, children should consume less. Voluntary salt reduction targets were first set by the Department of Health, which vary according to the category, in 2006. These targets were last revised in 2014, with the aim of the targets being met by the end of 2017.
Katharine Jenner, nutritionist and campaign director for Cash, said: “Salt is the forgotten killer. “The findings from our FoodSwitch shopping basket survey are alarming and we are shocked to see that many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them.”
Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Cash, said the results were a “national scandal”.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “The food industry has reduced the amount of salt found in our foods by 11% in recent years, which is encouraging progress. “We know there is more to do. This is why we’re talking to retailers, manufacturers, and the eating-out-of-home sector on how they go further and faster to reaching the 2017 salt reduction targets.”