Surveys of pizzas, baked beans and canned pasta, published today by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), show that within these ranges of family staples salt levels can vary significantly.
One child’s pizza was found to contain almost three times as much salt as that found in another brand of pizza. Some brands of standard baked beans contain only two-thirds the salt of others.
Reductions have been made by some manufacturers since these surveys were conducted, but levels still need to decrease substantially across the full range of processed foods in order to reach the Agency's target of reducing salt consumption to 6 grams a day by 2010. The Agency is working closely with industry to secure further commitments to salt reduction.
Scientific research links high levels of salt in the diet to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is a cause, or a contributing factor in over 170,000 deaths each year in England alone. The recommended level of salt intake for adults is 6g a day and proportionally lower for children. On average, adults are currently consuming about 9.5g a day.
The Agency's on-going programme of surveys is used to highlight the salt levels of everyday foods.
Sir John Krebs, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: 'Foods such as baked beans, spaghetti and pizza are products which families rely on. 75% of our daily salt intake comes from salt hidden in products such as these, and not from salt that we add ourselves. The fact that the salt in one can of baked beans, or a pizza, can vary so dramatically indicates that manufacturers can reduce the amount of salt they add to these products. The Food Standards Agency wants to see more substantial reductions in salt in food products.'
98 fresh, frozen and take-away pizzas were analysed as part of the survey. The survey identified nutrient content by laboratory analysis, once the samples had been cooked according to the manufacturers' instructions.
Pizza survey results