Some popcorn varieties on supermarket shelves were four times saltier than seawater, according to figures from Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which surveyed 154 flavoured popcorn products.
The “perceived” healthy snack was “stuffing” consumers with unnecessary amounts of salt, the campaign group said. More than a third contained as much or more salt than KP original salted peanuts, it added.
Examples of the saltiest popcorn on supermarket shelves included Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn with a wasabi glaze, which contained 0.9g of salt per 25g portion, according to CASH.
McEnnedy Microwave Butter Flavour Popcorn from Lidl contained 0.88g of salt per 40g portion.
No more than 6g a day
Saltiest supermarket popcorn
- Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn Wasabi Glaze – 0.9g salt per 25g portion
- McEnnedy Microwave Popcorn Butter Flavour (Lidl) – 0.88g salt per 40g portion
- Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn White Cheese – 0.86g salt per 25g portion
- Pret A Manger Popcorn Rock Salt – 0.8g salt per 29g portion
- Asda Chosen by You Toffee Popcorn – 0.78g salt per 50g portion
- Popcorn Kitchen Sea Salt & Olive Oil – 0.77g salt per 22g portion
Government guidelines recommend adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day.
Although popcorn was generally lower in fat and higher in fibre than most other savoury snacks, the industry should do more to reduce its salt content, said one of the UK’s leading nutritionists Dr Carrie Ruxton.
“I think CASH has a point,” she told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “Some brands could easily reduce salt, while retaining a great taste.
“However, I don’t think that consumers should be forced down the route of plain popcorn, as this is likely to be too much of a taste shift for most,” she added.
Popcorn was much saltier than crisps, which were perceived as being very unhealthy, Professor Graham MacGregor, CASH chairman, told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“Many crisp manufacturers have reduced the salt content of their crisps to be in line with salt reduction targets,” he said. “Whereas I don’t think there have been any targets for popcorn.”
The amount of salt in food had come down dramatically over the years in response to campaign groups such as CASH, as well as research proving too much salt in the diet increased heart disease, MacGregor said.
‘Sold as wholesome’
“The FSA [Food Standards Agency] needs to give targets for popcorn because it’s being sold as a wholesome snack,” he added.
Least salty supermarket popcorn
- Waitrose Good to Go Wasabi & Ginger Popcorn – 0.11g salt per 25g portion
- Butterkist Butter Microwave Popcorn – 0.15g salt per 20g portion
- PROPERCORN Lightly Sea Salted – 0.15g salt per 20g portion
- Tyrrell’s Poshcorn Sea Salted – 0.2g salt per 17g portion
- Morrisons Salted Popcorn – 0.2g salt per 25g portion
When asked to compare the high fat content of crisps with the generally low fat content of popcorn, MacGregor said: “We don’t comment on the amount of fat in popcorn, it’s too complicated.
However, he said the butter-flavoured popcorn products contained as much, if not more, fat than crisps. “And the fat in crisps is generally polyunsaturated fats, which is not harmful.
“This is a perfect example of the food industry taking something that is good for health, and ruining it by adding large amounts of salt,”
The worst offenders in the foodservice sector included Cineworld, which served popcorn containing 5.1g of salt per 225g serving.
Empire Cinemas’ salted popcorn contained 3.7g of salt per 192g and My Vue’s 158g serving contained 3.1g of salt. The Odeon’s large popcorn contained 3.02g per portion.