Many processed meat-free alternative products on sale in the UK are exceeding maximum recommended salt levels, with some being saltier than seawater, according to a nationwide survey by Action on Salt.
The campaign group said that real beef burgers from retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda have a lower average salt content per serving than that of meat-free burgers.
Of the 154 products included in the survey, 32 have no front-of-pack colour-coded labelling and only three are low in salt with 0.3g per 100g or less.
Action on Salt said that 18% of products have no portion size which, it says, makes it hard for consumers to judge how much of a product they should eat and gauge their daily salt intake.
The group added that the saltiest products in the survey – Tofurky’s Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco’s Meat Free 8 Bacon Style Rashers – both contain much more salt per 100g than seawater.
There were large variations in the salt content of products within the same category. Most meat-free categories had at least a 50% difference in salt content between the saltiest and least salty products; meat-free mince had the biggest variation with an 83% difference.
Action on Salt nutritionist Mhairi Brown said: “Research has highlighted that we must reduce the amount of meat we eat to reduce the negative impact of climate change. 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 (PHE) to reinvigorate the UK’s salt reduction strategy.”
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Salt, added: “Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease.
“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. We are again calling on PHE to take urgent action.”
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