Reduction in salt intake has been a major target for the food industry and regulators, as excessive levels have been linked to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. The recommended daily limit for adults is 6g.
Although most people only eat a celebratory meal such as the traditional Christmas feast rarely, the survey conduced by CASH shows just how easy it is to consume excess salt without being aware.
Professor Graham Macgregor, chairman of the campaign group, said: "We don't want to get too worried about this – but our survey showed that, surprisingly, there's a lot of hidden salt in a portion of Christmas lunch.
"The reason we are concerned about this is that people are eating all this salt unwittingly and putting up their blood pressure."
The majority of the salt people consume is not added at the table, but is contained in processed and prepared foods to enhance taste or to preserve. The food industry’s challenge has been to reduce the salt it uses in products, but without impacting sensory attributes or compromising food safety.
The CASH researchers looked at a traditional Christmas meal in the UK.
Pre-dinner drinks are often accompanied by snacks, such as nuts (0.8g salt per serving); crisps (0.3g); and olives (0.8g).
A common starter is smoked salmon (3.15g per serving).
The traditional main course is roast turkey (0.2g) and accompanying side dishes such as stuffing (2.53g), chipolatas in bacon (0.56g), and gravy (0.58g).
The traditional dessert is Christmas pudding (0.34g).
Finally, the meal may be rounded off with a slice of stilton cheese (0.6g).
When 0.62g was added in for ‘butter, etc’, the total salt load was seen to be 11.2g – for a single meal.