Despite being considered ‘healthier’ alternatives, some vegetarian products contain more salt than meat options.
A campaign group has warned that over a quarter of meat substitution products are exceeding their maximum salt targets.
The recent survey by Action on Salt has found that 28 percent of 157 meat alternatives were higher in salt than their maximum targets set by Public Health England (PHE).
The group, based at Queen Mary University of London, also said that meat-free burgers contain, on average, more salt than meat burgers.
The most salty supermarket products surveyed, Tofurky’s Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco’s Meat Free 8 Bacon Style Rashers contain ‘much more salt per 100 grams than seawater.’ PHE’s target for meat-free bacon is 1.88 grams of salt per 100 grams. In comparison, Tofurky’s bacon came in at 3.5 grams and Tesco’s at 3.2 grams.
Meat-free bacon was followed by meat-free sliced ‘meat’ as the group with the next saltiest products in the survey. According to the results, on average, vegetarian kievs are also ‘saltier than a large portion of McDonald’s fries.’
Significantly, there were large variations between products within the same category. For example, an 83 percent difference separates the saltiest and the least-salty meat-free mince products.
‘This once again highlights that it is very easy to make products with less salt and so ALL manufacturers should aim to reduce salt in their products, not just the responsible few.’
One in five of the products tested also did not have any front of pack colour-coded labelling, including Linda McCartney’s product range.
Only three of all the products surveyed were low in salt with 0.3 grams per 100 grams, or less.
Action on Salt are calling upon the PHE to take ‘urgent action’.
Mhairi Brown, nutritionist at Action on Salt said: ‘The food industry have ensured greater availability of meat-free alternatives, but now they must do more to ensure that meat-free alternatives contain far less salt—at the very least lower than their meat equivalents.
‘This survey drives home the urgent need for Public Health England to reinvigorate the UK’s salt reduction strategy.’
‘Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease,’ added Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Salt.
‘Given the vast amounts of strokes and heart disease that could be avoided and huge savings to the NHS, it is incomprehensible that Public Health England are not doing more to reduce the amount of salt in our food.’
The government’s recommendation for salt is no more than six grams a day for children and adults in the UK.
Professor Louise Levy, head of nutrition science at PHE has stated that salt consumption has ‘decreased over the last decade’ and that the government is committed to reducing the nation’s salt intake.
‘There is still a long way to go, as some foods still contain too much salt,’ he said.
‘Government has been clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets.
‘Since taking over salt reduction, PHE has been collecting data on industry's progress and we'll report later this year as planned.’