The advice came as CASH published the findings of a survey into salt (sodium chloride) levels in processed sausages.
There was a three-fold difference in salt content between the worst offender – Richmond’s 12 Skinless Pork Sausages with 2.3 g per 100 g – and the lowest, which was The Co-operative’s Irresistible sweet chilli sausages with 0.75 g per 100 g.
Vegetarian options were not necessarily better, with mycoprotein-based Quorn’s Best of British containing 1.9 g salt per 100 g, the equivalent of 2.2 g in two sausages.
Calling these levels “excessively high”, the pressure group also criticised some of the biggest brands - Richmond, Wall’s and the retailer Iceland – for failing to use colour-coded traffic light labelling as well as listing one sausage as a full portion: “completely unrealistic”, it said.
CASH and its sister group Action on Sugar regularly conduct surveys highlighting the high levels of salt and sugar in processed foods, from pesto sauces to breakfast cereals, in a bid to encourage manufacturers to reduce levels and raise awareness amongst consumers.
'A short-term solution'
It therefore welcomed the latest COT-SACN report, which gives the green light to potassium chloride.
Campaign manager Sonia Pombo told FoodNavigator it would like to see Public Health England, the independent body that advises the UK government on public health policy, recommend its use to the food industry “in certain problem food categories where simply removing the salt is not possible for technological or safety reasons”.
“Whilst we don’t recommend its use in everything, the use of potassium-based salt replacers is a potential short term solution in getting overall sodium levels down in food,” she said.
“Many companies have used [the fact that the Department of Health did not recommend potassium chloride] to stall on their progress, and have most likely awaited the final decision before making further developments. We hope that now the SACN report has been released, industry will start to work towards lower sodium levels.
“Regardless of these recommendations however, companies should have been looking towards other solutions, not just salt replacers. Our hope is that over time salt content as well as salty flavour will have reduced in all foods.
“The use of replacers is a useful short term alternative to replacing sodium in products, but does not alter the salty taste profile. Nonetheless, as a nation the majority of us are not consuming enough potassium in the diet, so increasing this slightly in some foods would benefit us all.”
CASH collected the nutritional information using FoodSwitch UK, a free smartphone app that it developed in partnership with The George Institute for Global Health.
Linking to a database of nutrition information for over 100,000 packaged food and drinks sold in the UK, consumers scan the barcode of a product and instantly receive ‘traffic light’ colour-coded nutritional information.
The app then recommends similar, yet healthier, alternatives and users can filter their results for different nutrients, such as salt, sugar or saturated fat.
A total of 4,381 people have downloaded the app to date.
Professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of CASH Graham MacGregor urged Public Health England to “get tough” on all companies not complying with the voluntary salt reduction targets and to make them mandatory.
“Otherwise, thousands of people will die from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks every year,” he added. “Salt reduction is the most cost-effective and most successful public health preventive measure made to date, and it is a national tragedy that it is being allowed to fail.”
Last week, we caught up with the president of potassium chloride supplier NuTek Salt on what the UK’s regulatory shift means for its business in Europe. Click here to read our interview.