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High levels of salt in shop-bought pesto
New CASH Survey Reveals Shockingly High Levels of Salt in Pesto as 2017 Salt Targets Are Ignored
New findings reveal some food manufacturers have INCREASED salt levels in their pesto sauces despite warnings that salt damages our health. Leading pesto brand Sacla Classic Basil pesto has 18% MORE SALT now than in 2009.
CASH is calling on Public Health England (PHE) to act tough on the food industry following serious concerns that, with less than three months to go, certain food manufacturers are failing to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets.
The survey, conducted using the new and updated FoodSwitch UK app, shows that the salt content of pesto sauces ranges hugely.
The saltiest pestos were by Sacla, the current bestselling pesto brand, with their Italia Organic Vegetarian Pesto No.5 Basil and Italia Pesto No.1 Classic Basil, both containing an alarming 3.30g salt per 100g. This makes them 30% saltier than seawater and they contain 2.5 times more salt per 100g than salted peanuts!
What’s even more disappointing is the salt levels in both of these pesto products have actually INCREASED since the last survey in 2009.
None of the branded pesto’s carry the Department of Health’s recommended colour-coded front of pack nutrition label making it difficult for consumers to know just how much salt they are eating and how to make a healthy choice.
Examples of products with high levels of salt include:
- Sacla Italia Pesto No.1 Classic Basil – 3.30g per 100g / 1.57g per portion
- Sacla Italia Pesto No.2 Sun-Dried Tomato – 3.00g per 100g / 1.43g per portion
- Napolina Green Pesto with Basil – 2.50g per 100g / per portion not available
- Gino D'Acampo Pesto alla Genovese Basil Pesto – 2.30g per 100g / per portion not available
- Truly Italian Genovese Basil Pesto – 2.0g per 100g / 1.40g per portion
Examples of products with lower levels of salt:
- Tesco Reduced Fat Red Pesto – 0.70g per 100g / 0.33g per portion
- Aldi Specially Selected Italian Pesto Genovese – 0.88g per 100g / 0.55g per portion
- Jamie Oliver Green Pesto – 0.90g per 100g / 0.43g per portion
- Aldi Specially Selected Italian Pesto Rosso – 0.95g per 100g / 0.6g per portion
- Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Pesto Alla Genovese – 0.99g per 100g / 0.47g per portion
Pesto is often added to sandwiches, pizzas, meat, fish and pasta dishes alongside other salty ingredients, which can push up the total salt content of meals to over 50% of your maximum daily recommended intake. For example, a pesto, ham and cheese toastie could provide you with over 3g salt.
Unfortunately, nearly 40% of products still exceed the average salt target for pesto sauces. As we know a high salt diet is a major risk factor for high blood pressure.
Sarah Alderton, Assistant Nutritionist at CASH explains, “Pesto is an everyday product eaten by adults and children alike, but people might not realise just how salty it can be! That’s why it’s important to check the label; switching from a high to lower salt option could really help to reduce your salt intake. However, given the inconsistent nature of food labelling this is difficult to do. None of the products we surveyed could be described as ‘healthy’, so consider having pesto in smaller portions, less frequently, or try other pasta sauces lower in salt and fat instead.”
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH says: “The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but so far PHE is doing little to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met, and has not confirmed that they are setting new targets to be achieved by 2020. This is a national scandal as we know we can save thousands of people from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks if population salt intake is reduced, and furthermore, it is the most cost effective health policy.”