A total of 28% of products AOS surveyed contained salt levels higher than the maximum limits published by Public Health England (PHE), which were due to be met by 31 December 2017.
AOS named and shamed Tofurky’s Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco’s Meat Free 8 Bacon Style Rashers for containing more salt per 100g than seawater – 3.5g and 3.2g respectively.
Of the 157 supermarket meat alternative products surveyed, the highest average salt content per 100g was found in meat-free bacon (2.03g per 100g) and meat-free sliced meat (1.56g per 100g).
The survey also found that 20% of products did not have front-of-pack colour-coded labelling, singling out the entirety of the Linda McCartney product range. AOS claimed the results had exposed the perceived ‘health halo’ of processed meat alternatives.
The group said the results proved that voluntary salt targets were ineffective, due to a lack of monitoring and guidance from PHE. It called on the health body to take action to reduce the amount of salt found in UK food and prevent unnecessary deaths.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of AOS, said: “Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease.
‘Take urgent action’
“Given the vast amounts of strokes and heart disease that could be avoided and huge savings to the National Health Service, it is incomprehensible that PHE are not doing more to reduce the amount of salt in our food. We are again calling on PHE to take urgent action.”
AOS nutritionist Mhairi Brown said the food industry had ensured greater availability of meat-free alternatives, but more needed to be done to ensure that meat-free alternatives contained far less salt.
“This survey drives home the urgent need for Public Health England to reinvigorate the UK’s salt reduction strategy,” she added.
In response to AOS’s survey, a PHE spokesman said that salt consumption had decreased over the last decade, but there was still a long way to go as some foods still contained too much salt.
“Government has been clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. Since taking over salt reduction, PHE has been collecting data on industry’s progress and we’ll report later this year as planned.”