Salt levels in plant-based meat come under fire

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Action on Salt is calling for mandatory salt targets. iStock credit: Quanthem
Action on Salt is calling for mandatory salt targets. iStock credit: Quanthem

Related tags: Ingredients & nutrition, vegan

Campaign group Action on Salt is increasing its pressure on Government to legislate on salt levels in food items as it has published its latest research.

The organisation has again called for legislation after it published new research in Nutrients​ which showed that the salt content of plant-based meat products is unnecessarily high, with more than 75% of the products surveyed not meeting the Government’s salt reduction targets. 

Earlier this month Action on Salt called for legislation or taxation to be used to cut salt content in food and drink products, after another study found a link between salt intake and people suffering and dying from strokes and heart disease​. 

The latest research from the group investigated the nutritional profile and overall healthiness of plant-based meat available in the UK.

Meat analogue versus meat products

Researchers analysed 207 plant-based meat analogue products and compared them to 226 meat products. They found plant-based meat to have significantly fewer calories, total and saturated fat and more fibre than meat equivalents.

However, salt content was significantly higher than meat in five out of six product categories, which were breaded poultry, burger, meatballs, mince, poultry and sausage. 

Action on salt said only two plant-based products in the survey would be considered low in salt with a green label on front of pack (i.e. <0.3g/100g), compared to 45 meat products. These two products were Granose Soya Mince - 435g and Clearspring Organic Soya Mince 300g.

'Coherent' salt reduction policy

The organisation said overall, more than three in four plant-based products surveyed failed to meet their respective salt reduction targets. It is now calling for the Government to reinstate a 'coherent' salt reduction policy by mandating the salt targets so all food manufacturers have to comply. 

Roberta Alessandrini, researcher in Public Health Nutrition, Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study said: “Plant-based meat is a healthier alternative to meat as it has fewer calories and less saturated fat. However, our data shows that salt levels in these products are unnecessarily high.

"Manufacturers have a vital role to play in providing consumers with products that are not only better for the planet and the animals but that are 100% healthy and low in salt."

'Up to six times more salt than competitors'

Sonia Pombo, campaign manager for Action on Salt and co-author of the study, added: “This data shows the large variation in salt content of these products, with some food companies producing foods with up to six times more salt than their competitors.

"It’s no wonder we are all eating too much salt when food companies use it to such excess. Reducing salt is clearly possible; it’s time these companies acted more responsibly for the sake of our health.” 

Action on Salt’s sister group Action on Sugar has called for the removal of what it called misleading nutrition and health claims on baby and toddler snacks after finding some contained up to two teaspoons of sugar per serve​.

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