How Much Salt??

The last few weeks have been a bit thin on posts here and this is because I have become obsessed with salt! I was asked to collect some figures of the sugar and salt content of bought food for my children’s lower school. They’re in the process of putting together a healthy eating policy that will cover the packed lunches and I went off to see just what was in some of the things which turn up in children’s lunchboxes. It took quite a while to get a comprehensive picture, but the results were interesting, to say the least. In fact I was so horrified by the salt content of the food which is on the shelves of our supermarkets and the frankly devious lengths to which food companies are going to conceal this, that I HAVEĀ  to pass on some of the facts and figures. Some of the worst offenders are not going to be on any dairy free shopping list as they are processed cheese products and we are spared the task of avoiding them. I have reams of figures and, unless people want me to, I’m not proposing to put them all up. However, some things are dairy free and those things I shall put up. There are also major labelling issues and many people don’t realise what they are and therefore don’t know what they are getting when they buy some foods.

Labelling issues

  1. rdas

    We are all bombarded with “recommended daily allowances” (rda) of things these days. They turn up on most food packaging. However, we don’t hear very much about the fact that there are different rdas for children. This is particularly crucial when it come to salt. Plastered all over crisp packets and processed cheese stuff is the adult rda for salt, but what are the child’s figures? Well here they are:

    Babies = none

    Child 5-7yr old = 3g

    Child 7-10yr old = 4g

    Child 10-14yrs = 5g

    Adult = 6g

    This makes a huge difference when looking at the % of daily allowance figures on packaging. Far too many companies put the adult % of rda on products clearly aimed at the children’s lunchbox market. For instance, look at these:

    Oreo Snack Packs

    Each pack has 4 biscuits, but it says in very small print that the figures are per biscuit.

    Salt = 0.1g per biscuit = 2% rda

    That doesn’t look too bad, until you realise that this translates into:-

    Salt = 0.4g per pack = 13% child’s rda!!!


    These happen to have milk in them (as well as lots of sugar and salt!) so they’re not in the shopping list, they’re just here as an example of sneaky labelling.

  2. Did You Know?

    Not all companies label salt as salt.

    Sounds odd, but it’s true. Some give you the sodium content and some even hide this by using the chemical symbol for the element sodium, Na.

    Why do they do this?

    Well, it just so happens that sodium only makes up part of salt, which is sodium chloride. So, of course, the figures look very much smaller for the sodium content than they would for the salt content. Responsible companies give you both the sodium content and what that means as salt, which is more than twice as much.

    Salt = Na (sodium) x 2.5

  3. Some Top Salt Offenders

    Morrison’s Twists

    1.02g salt per portion

    Dorito’s Cool Original

    0.8g salt per portion

    Tesco Value Sausage Roll

    0.6g salt per portion

    Real McCoy’s Salt and Vinegar

    1.02g salt per portion

    The last one would give a 5-7 yr old child a staggering 44% of its daily salt allowance in one small bag of crisps!!

It’s the sodium in salt which does the damage, but to make comparisons easily, you need all the labelling to be the same. It’s not helpful to have some companies giving the sodium content and some giving the salt content. For everybody to have a chance of drawing proper comparisons, the figures have to make sense and since rdas are given for salt rather than sodium, you have to wonder why food companies would choose to put the sodium content without the salt conversion…unless they don’t want us to know just how much salt is really in things…? To stand a chance of keeping track of the real salt content of many foods, you have to be prepared to stand in the supermarket multiplying things by 2.5 in your head. That’s after you’ve had the patience to find where on the pack they’ve chosen to hide the little box with the figures in the first place!

There will be more on this theme! Once you start looking you have to be concerned. Having become very concerned myself, I have to pass this on.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>