Popular brands of table sauces and marinades on sale in the UK contain “excessive and unnecessary” levels of salt, which could be putting consumers’ wellbeing at risk, a health group has warned.
In a review of 357 store cupboard staples commonly available in UK supermarkets – including tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and brown sauce – more than half the products (54%) were found to be high in salt, attracting a red “traffic light” label. Ketchup, mayonnaise, pesto and other thick sauces have voluntary salt targets that were supposed to have been met by 2017, yet 38% of the products in the survey currently exceed their limits.
Action on Salt, which is based at Queen Mary University of London, is calling on the government to deliver a robust salt reduction programme for 2020 and extend targets to categories that have so far been ignored.
The saltiest sauces surveyed are Asian sauces such as chilli, fish, hoisin, plum and soy, for which Public Health England has not drawn up specific salt targets for industry. Although 88% of Asian sauces are high in salt and would receive a red label, four-fifths of them lack front-of-pack colour-coded labelling, making it difficult for the consumer to tell at a glance how salty they are.
Blue Dragon Fish Sauce has 26.7g of salt per 100ml which means that just one tablespoon would provide 4g of salt – two-thirds of an adult’s maximum recommended daily intake and the equivalent of nearly nine anchovy fillets. Also highlighted are Asda’s Dark Soy Sauce and Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Dark Soy Sauce, where just one tablespoon of provides nearly half an adult’s maximum daily salt intake.
Blue Dragon’s manufacturer, AB World Foods, said in a statement: “Our Asian-style sauces and marinades are designed as food ingredients rather than as the main constituent of a meal: on that basis they are used in small quantities to flavour a range of different dishes. All of our products are clearly labelled with nutritional information, including salt content, and are designed to be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
“Fish sauce is a traditional southeast Asian food ingredient that is commonly used as a salt replacement. Typically only a small amount of fish sauce is added to a recipe for depth of flavour.”
Zoe Davies, a nutritionist at Action on Salt, said: “Using lots of these salty sauces and marinades could be compromising our health as many of us are still eating more salt than the recommended [adult] limit of 6g (1 tsp) per day. There are much healthier and tastier alternatives available.”
The findings coincided with a study published in the BMJ Open, which analysed the salt content of sauces in the UK and in China. UK results suggested that over the past decade some sauces are getting saltier despite the health risks of a high salt diet.