Salty soups revealed

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Salty soups revealed
25/02/2010

Soup may be seen as a healthy meal option but new research has revealed many well known brands and those from popular high street cafés contain high levels of salt [1].

The Blood Pressure Association welcomes research conducted by sister charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which showed that 99 per cent of the surveyed soups contain more salt per portion than a packet of crisps [2], a quarter individually still fail to meet the 2010 Food Standards Agency average voluntary targets [3] and only six per cent can be labelled ‘green’ based on the traffic light labelling system [4].

CASH surveyed 575 ready-to-eat soups including fresh (chilled), ready to eat (canned and pouches), high street chain café soups and both branded and supermarket own-label products.

The highest average levels of salt were found in high street takeaway soups. The highest level was in the takeaway chain Eat.'s Very Big Soup Bold Thai Green Chicken Curry, containing 8.070g salt per 32 oz/907g portion, the same amount of salt as nearly three Big Macs and Fries [6].  Although Eat. offers large portions, even the smallest available size (12oz / 340 g) contains 2.815g/portion. The highest standard sized takeaway soup was Caffe Nero's Organic Carrot & Coriander soup, at 3.6g per portion, over three and a half times more salty than the lowest, a Malaysian Chicken Soup from Pret A Manger at 1g per portion.

Equivalent to five packets of crisps
Among fresh soups available in supermarkets, the highest product contains as much salt as nearly five packets of crisps; New Covent Garden Scotch Broth (2.4g/300g portion) which contains six times more salt than the lowest, Tideford Organics Moroccan Vegetable (0.44g/300g portion).

Since CASH last surveyed soups in 2007, there has been a 17 per cent reduction of salt per 100g soup in the ready to eat ranges.  However high levels of salt are still found in household name brands such as Batchelors Soupfulls Classic Beef and Vegetable (3.00g/400g portion) and Heinz e.g. Heinz Taste of Home Lancashire Lamb Hotpot (2.6g/430g portion).

The supermarkets own brand soups tended to have the lowest levels of salt. The 10 ready-to-eat soups which had the lowest levels of salt (for both portion and by 100g) were supermarket own brands including Morrison’s Chicken Noodle soup (0.5g/200g portion) and ASDA Good For You Tomato & Basil soup (0.5g/200g portion). 

The supermarkets meet 2010 targets in 93% of cases, while the branded products are trailing with only 66% meeting targets.

Healthier alternatives
Huge variations were found in soups with similar flavours.  Some healthier alternative include swapping Batchelors Soupfulls Classic Beef & Vegetable (3.00g/400g portion) for ASDA Chilli Beef Mighty Soup (1.1g/200g portion) saving 1.9g of salt, or substituting Marco Pierre White’s brand Glorious! Moroccan Tomato & Chickpea soup (2.1g/300g portion) for Tideford Organics Moroccan Vegetable soup (0.4g/300g portion) to save 1.66g salt. 

Katharine Jenner, Nutritionist and CASH Campaign Manager, said: "Comparing the amount of salt in a serving of soup bought in a supermarket is complicated by the fact that different products have widely different recommended portion sizes, ranging from 200g if half a can is eaten, up to 600g if a whole tub of soup is eaten.  People need to be aware that the salt per serving given on the label might not be how much they actually eat.

"Furthermore, most people will eat soup as a snack or as part of a meal, often with a sandwich or bread, which will add further to the salt content of the meal.  Two slices of bread contain an average of 0.8g of salt, therefore consuming an average supermarket bought soup (1.3g salt per portion) with two slices of bread will provide at least 2.1g salt, which is over a third of an adult’s daily limit."

CASH is urging manufacturers to reduce salt content "immediately".

“It is the very high levels of salt that are put in our food that leads to thousands of unnecessary stroke and heart deaths,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH. “We commend the progress so far; however they haven’t gone far enough if we are to save the maximum number of lives."

Sue Massey, Deputy Executive Director of The Blood Pressure Association, welcomed the research. She said: "Eating too much salt is a known factor in high blood pressure. We hope that CASH's findings will help consumers to make informed, healthy choices and reduce their salt intake. We also hope that manufacturers will continue to reduce the salt content of soup, since low salt doesn't have to mean low taste."

References:
[1] Summary tables can be found on CASH's website
[2] A standard 34.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted crisps contains 0.5g of salt
[3] The 2010 FSA average target for soup is 0.6g of salt per 100g.
[4] The criteria for each colour on the FSA traffic lights are as follows. Green ≤ 0.30g/100g, Amber >0.30 to ≤ 1.50g/100g, Red > 1.50g/100g or >2.40g/portion.
[5] 566 'wet' soups were included in this survey – including fresh, ready to eat and condensed soups. Instant soups were excluded.
[6] A Big Mac(2.1g salt/portion) and Medium Fries (0.6g salt/portion) totalling 2.7g from McDonald’s as per McDonald’s website.


Topics: Lifestyle


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