In 2001 enough sausages were sold in Britain to go around the world five times. That's a lot of sausages, but also - as the UK food agency points out this week - a lot of salt.
For a nation of sausage eaters - a recent survey from Mintel found that almost 90 per cent of the British households indulged once a week - a new survey from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that food manufacturers must keep on tackling the salt levels.
The FSA warned this week that salt levels of standard pork sausages on sale in the UK have actually increased by 9 per cent in the last decade to 2.4g per 80g portion, up from 2.2g in 1990-1991. The levels are significant when current advice from the UK health departments is that people should try to consume no more than 6g of salt a day.
Julia Unwin, deputy chair of the FSA, said: "Sausages are popular, particularly in the summer barbecue season. But our survey shows that their salt levels are still too high. Having too much salt in your diet can contribute to two of the big killers in the UK - heart disease and stroke."
But the survey also revealed that in the past 10 years manufacturers have made improvements in salt levels, reducing quantities across a range of sausages. FSA investigations into uncooked branded sausages found improvements in 'high quality', 'beef', 'reduced fat' and 'vegetarian' sausages, with 'reduced fat' in particular dropping by a massive 26 per cent to 1.77g, from 2.4g per 80g in 1990.
Salt is used as a preservative in food, as well as to give flavour and texture. Most meat products contain salt, added both as a flavouring agent and to inhibit bacterial growth. Salt also plays a part in fat emulsification, diminishing the loss of fat and water during cooking in products such as sausages.