Salty sandwiches need health warning

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sandwiches, Retailing, Supermarket

More than two billion sandwiches are consumed every year by
Britons, who spend roughly £3 each day on their favourite lunchtime
meal, according to a new study commissioned by the Asda supermarket
chain. But many people are taking their life in their hands by
doing so, one organisation has warned, with alarmingly high levels
of salt in many sandwiches.

Lobby group CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) has this week (British Sandwich Week, as it happens) published the results of a new survey which it claims shows that sandwiches on sale at retail outlets are so salty they should carry a health warning.

CASH looked at the salt content of 250 packaged sandwiches sold through 16 high street stores including Boots, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer. They found that more than one in five sandwiches - 22 per cent - had over 3g salt and a massive 44 per cent over 2.5g salt. The maximum recommended daily amount of salt for an adult is 6g per day.

Two sandwiches sampled contain more than 6 grams, which is the level recommended for the entire daily intake of salt for an adult.

Breakfast-style sandwiches containing egg, bacon and sausages from several well known stores were particularly high in salt. A chicken Caesar sandwich had 5.9 grams of salt and one with smoked salmon and crème fraiche had 6.4 grams.

Excess salt in the diet is widely believed to contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to strokes, heart attacks and heart failure- the world's number one killer.

Asda's survey, meanwhile, shows that many consumers eating these potentially dangerous sandwiches are not doing themselves any favours by doing so at their desk - or by consuming them in large quantities - adding to the health risk factor.

Some 15 per cent of those questioned by the supermarket said they regularly ate triple deckers each day, while nearly 25 per cent of respondents said they never left their desk at lunchtime, eating their sandwiches there. In contrast, just 17 per cent said they only ever bought 95 per cent fat-free sandwiches.

As a result of its research into sandwich habits, Asda has produced 25 new sandwiches, but is not concerned by CASH's claims about the salt content, having worked closely with the organisation over a number of years to ensure that its products have a minimal salt content.

"We have reduced salt in thousands of Asda brand products by an average of 12 per cent - and the new sandwich range is no exception,"​ said Asda's Rachel Fellows.

"We have worked closely with CASH (as well as the FSA and BRC) on this issue and have shared the learnings of our salt reduction programme - particularly in difficult areas such as bread-making - for some years. The majority of the sandwiches in the new range have levels well below the 2.5g per pack cited by CASH in its report."

She added: "We were also glad that the moves we have made over the years on salt reduction were recognised, in last week's report where the salt levels of Asda sandwiches were lower than our competitors."

Other retailers have perhaps not been so assiduous, however, at least in the past, but the level of concern about salt content in foods is now so high that the sector as a whole has decided to take action, recently pledging to cut the salt content of a wide range of its own label products as part of a programme organised by the British Retail Consortium.

Sandwiches were included in this framework, with retailers pledging an upper limit of 4g of salt per serving in the short term, moving to no more than 2.4 g per serving for 50 per cent of all sandwiches sold in the longer term. The UK Food Standards Agency sets a recommended maximum intake of 6g of salt a day per person.

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