- - NEW research by Action on Salt reveals some popular sliced bread sold in UK supermarkets is saltier per serve than 2x small portions of McDonald's French friesi
- - 2 slices of Hovis Soft White Extra Thick Bread has as much salt as a McDonald's Hamburgerii and a fifth of an adult's MAXIMUM daily salt intake
- - Three in four sliced breads contain as much salt or more per slice than a packet of ready salted crispsiii
- - Even a small reduction (6%) in the average salt content of bread would remove 926 tonnes of salt from the UK diet per year
- - Call for government to implement mandatory salt reduction targets to prevent thousands of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke
NEW research by Action on Salt, the scientific expert group based at Queen Mary University of London, has found popular packaged sliced bread sold in UK supermarkets contain unnecessary amounts of saltiv, with some breads saltier per serve than 2x small portions of McDonald's French friesi.
Salt is the major factor that raises our blood pressure, which is the world's biggest killer (60% of strokes and 50% of heart disease). In the UK, bread is the main source of saltv, with over 60 loaves of bread brought per person per yearvi, and therefore is a key target in reducing population blood pressure.
Action on Salt is now urging the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to follow other countries around the world by setting mandatory salt reduction targetsvii in order to create a level playing field across the food industry and reduce the thousands of people dying and suffering needlessly from strokes and heart disease.
Even small reductions in the salt content of bread will have a significant impact on public health e.g., a 6% reduction in the average salt content of bread would remove a whopping 926 tonnes of salt from the UK diet per year, equivalent to the weight of 132 elephants!viii
Of the 242 sliced breads surveyed in-store, three in four were found to contain as much salt or more per slice than a packet of ready salted crisps!ix The saltiest culprit was Hovis White Loaf with starter dough, containing 1.48g/100g - nearly THREE times more salt than the lowest, Waitrose Rye and Wheat Dark Sourdough Bread (0.51g/100g).
Whilst the majority of breads fall below the 2024 maximum salt target as set by the Department of Health and Social Care in 2020x, these large variations in salt make it clear that the targets are far too lenient, with scope for further reductions (Table 1).
Table 1. Examples of bread with higher and lower salt content, split by category
||Higher Salt Example
||Salt Per 100g
||Lower Salt Example
||Salt Per 100g
||Aldi Village Bakery Both in One 800g
||Asda The Bakery White & Wheat Loaf 800g
||1.2 times difference
||Hovis Granary 450g
||Aldi Village Bakery The Classic Malted Bloomer 800g
||2.4 times difference
||Schneider Brot Whole Grain Rye Bread 500g
||Waitrose & Partners Rye and Wheat Dark Sourdough Bread 500g
||4.4 times difference
||Hovis Seeded Bread 450g
||Morrisons The Best Thick Cut Multi-Seed Loaf 800g
||2 times difference
||The Polish Bakery Baltonowski Premium Bread – Chleb Baltonowski 800g
||Jason's Sourdough The Great White 450g
||1.6 times difference
||M&S Thick White Super Soft Loaf 800g
||Aldi Village Bakery The Traditional White Bloomer Bread 800g
||1.6 times difference
||M&S The Bakery Soft Golden Wholemeal Farmhouse 800g
||ASDA Extra Special Farmhouse Wholemeal & Rye Bread 800g
||1.7 times difference
*Weight of each slice varies across products
Salt reduction over time
Previous research on bread suggests salt content has been reduced by 8% since 2011xi, with some notable reductions for particular loaves of bread. These include Vogels Original Mixed Grain, Vogels Soya & Linseed and Schneider Brot Organic Sunflower Seed Bread (Table 2). Worryingly, some appear to have increased in salt since 2011, including Sainsbury’s Medium Wholemeal, up 19% (0.74g/100g in 2011 vs 0.88g/100g in 2023).
Table 2. Pre-sliced breads with the biggest progress in salt reduction between 2011 and 2023
||2011 - Salt Per 100g
||2023 - Salt per 100g
||Glorious Original Mixed Grain Bread
||Sensational Soya & Linseed Bread
||Organic Sunflower Seed Bread
Sheena Bhageerutty, Assistant Nutritionist at Action on Salt says: "Bread is the single biggest contributor of salt to our diets and therefore even the smallest of reductions in salt would go a long way for our health. This is why we urgently need companies to double down their efforts to reduce salt further and make salt reduction a priority."
Sonia Pombo, Campaign Lead at Action on Salt says: "Our survey clearly demonstrates the huge variation in the salt content of bread and shows how easy it would be for those companies lagging behind to immediately reformulate. The time to obfuscate is over – action is needed now. The Government can no longer sit on their hands and do nothing when so many thousands of lives could be saved."
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Salt says: "Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to lower blood pressure and reduce the number of people dying and suffering from strokes and heart disease. It's therefore a disgrace that food companies continue to fill our food with so much unnecessary salt, as shown here in bread. For too long the food industry have been in charge of public health, at our expense; it's time for the Government to stop letting people die needlessly."
i. A small portion of McDonald’s fries contains 0.44g of salt https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/product/fries-small.html. Five products surveyed contain 0.9g or more per serve as suggested on pack (typically 2 slices).
ii. A McDonald’s Hamburger contains 1.2g salt per portion Hovis Soft White Extra Thick bread contains 1.2g salt in 2 slices
iii. Walkers Ready Salted Crisps 25g contains 0.34g of salt https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/254926800
iv. Survey details: Please see Action on Salt's full report on the website for more detail. Action on Salt surveyed pre-packaged loaves of sliced bread available from 10 of the UK's largest supermarkets. 242 sliced breads were collected from 28 different companies. Full nutritional information of sliced bread (energy, fat, saturates, sugars, fibre, protein and salt per 100g and per slice was collected in store between January and March 2023 using the FoodSwitch Data Collector App. In addition to nutrition information, the full ingredients list was also recorded.
v. NDNS: In the 19-64 group the total contribution of bread is 14% (white – 8%, wholemeal – 3%, Brown, granary and wheatgerm- 3%). In children (4-10 and 11-18) bread contributes 16% of total salt intake and in the older population (65+) bread contributes 17% of total salt intake.https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-9-to-11-2016-to-2017-and-2018-to-2019
vi. UK Flour Millers. Flour & bread consumption. Available at: https://www.ukflourmillers.org/flourbreadconsumption
vii. WHO global report on sodium intake reduction. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2023
viii. The average person in the UK is thought to consume 524g bread per week (https://www.statista.com/statistics/284434/weekly-household-consumption-of-bread-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/). If the average salt content of all pre-sliced bread was reduced by 6% to 0.85g/100g (in line with the sales weighted average), that would be equivalent of 926 tonnes of salt removed from the nation's diet, the equivalent of 132 elephants in weight.
ix. Walker’s ready salted crisps contain 0.34g salt https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/299913390. 75% of sliced breads contain 0.34g or more per slice.
x. Sliced breads fall under category of 2.1 and have a maximum salt target of 1.01g/100g. Salt reduction: targets for 2024 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salt-reduction-targets-for-2024
xi. Brinsden HC, He FJ, Jenner KH, et al. Surveys of the salt content in UK bread: progress made and further reductions possible. BMJ Open 2013;3:e002936. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013- 002936