After surveying more than 300 products from leading UK supermarkets, CASH concluded 70% of salted butters would receive a red traffic light for salt.
Also, fewer than four-out-of-10 (38%) of butter and margarine products met the Department of Health’s 2012 salt targets, while low fat spreads can be even saltier than full fat versions.
The pressure group claimed one low fat spread was as salty as seawater and Marks & Spencer Softer Butter described as ‘slightly salted’ was saltier than its own Salted Farmhouse Butter.
'Salty as seawater'
The salt content of varieties claimed to be ‘slightly salted’ or ‘lighter’ often do not differ significantly from ‘salted’ or ‘full fat’ products, said CASH. But these products target health conscious shoppers, who should expect them to be lower in salt.
Graham MacGregor, CASH chairman, said: “It is a national scandal that there is still so much unnecessary salt in our food. For every one gram reduction in salt intake, we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, strokes and heart failures, half of which would have been fatal.”
MacGregor, who is also Professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London, added: “As butter, margarine and other spreads are a hidden source of salt in our diets, it is vital that the Department of Health ensures that manufacturers reduce the salt in these products immediately.”
‘Hidden source of salt’
On average, people consume 11g fats and spread a day, said CASH. But while consumers are aware of the high fat content of fats and spreads and the risks linked to obesity, they rarely think about its contribution to their daily salt intake and their blood pressure, it claimed.
Katharine Jenner, CASH campaign director, said: “Our love affair with butter is bad for our hearts, and not just because it is full of fat. We often spread it on toast, use it in baking or add it to our cooking without thinking how much salt it contains.”
One slice of buttered toast can contain more salt than a packet of crisps, said Jenner. So, it was worth looking at the label and choosing a lower salt or unsalted spread, or simply using less, she added.
About 3% of the of dietary salt was said to come from fat spreads and 10% of fat and saturated fat.
Examples of high salt butter*
- Country Life Butter, 2g salt per 100g, 0.2g per portion
- Essential Waitrose Salted Dairy Butter, 1.9g salt per 100g, 0.19g per portion
- Simply M&S English Salted Butter, 1.75g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
- Anchor Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
- Asda English Salted Butter/Asda Smart Price Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
Examples of high salt margarines/spreads
- Weight Watchers Dairy Spread, 2.5g salt per 100g, 0.25g per portion
- Clover Lighter and Clover Spread, 1.8g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
- Aldi Spread the Love, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
- Lidl Heavenly Butter Spread, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion
- Marks & Spencer Touch of Butter, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion
*A portion refers to 10g.