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Free of gluten, full of salt
A new survey by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) has found that some gluten free snacks are five times saltier than others, which could have a dramatic impact on Coeliacs’ salt intake. CASH looked at 106 products including crisps, pretzels and popcorn from major supermarkets, and found that some similar products had an 80% difference in their salt content.
When looking at crackers and crispbreads for example, Mrs Crimble’s Original Cheese Crackers were found to have 3.5g salt per 100g, while Rude Health’s Mulitgrains Crackers contained just 0.7g per 100g. Similarly, crisps could contain up to 2.1g salt per 100g, such as Popchips Sea Salt, while Tyrells’ My Sweet Potato Lightly Sea Salted crisps contained just 0.5g per 100g.
Gluten free products are created for people with Coeliac disease, a digestive condition which makes it necessary to avoid gluten – a substance found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. They have an appearance of being healthy, but a high salt content can raise blood pressure regardless of the other ingredients.
If all the gluten free products had front of pack nutrition labelling, 35% would have a red label for salt, and 65% would have amber. Only a third (33%) of the products had labelling, making it difficult to compare products within the gluten free range.
There were also numerous instances where a gluten free product was far saltier than a non-gluten-free equivalent. Schar’s Gluten Free Pretzels contained twice the salt of Sainsbury’s Salted Pretzels, and the Snack Organisation’s Sweet Chilli Rice Crackers had three times the salt of Aldi’s The Foodie Market Crunchy Chilli Rice Snacks.
Shefalee Loth, Nutritionist at Blood Pressure UK commented: “Gluten free products have an image of being healthy, but the high salt content of some of these products is putting people at risk of high blood pressure and the numerous health problems it causes. The fact that there is such variation between products shows they simply don’t need to be so high in salt.
“While these products provide people with Coeliac disease with simple food options, the next steps are to provide better labelling so that they can make an informed choice, and to bring the salt content down to a safer and healthier level.”