U.K. Research Finds High Levels of Salt in Butter and Margarine

For the first time, research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health [CASH] reveals the shockingly high and unnecessary levels of salt in butter, margarine, fats and spreads. The survey looked at over 300 products, from all the leading supermarkets, and found a large proportion of ‘fats and spreads’ (62%) have failed to achieve the 2012 salt targets set out by the Department of Health. On average people consume 11g fats and spread a day, however, whilst people are aware of the high fat content of fats and spreads and the risks linked to obesity, they rarely think about its contribution to their daily salt intake and their blood pressure.

High examples of Butter NB. A portion has been standardised to 10g throughout

  1. Country Life Butter, 2g salt per 100g, 0.2g per portion
  2. Essential Waitrose Salted Dairy Butter, 1.9g salt per 100g, 0.19g per portion
  3. Simply M&S English Salted Butter, 1.75g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
  4. Anchor Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
  5. Asda English Salted Butter/Asda Smart Price Butter, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion

High examples of Margarines/Spreads

  1. Weight Watchers Dairy Spread, 2.5g salt per 100g, 0.25g per portion
  2. Clover Lighter and Clover Spread, 1.8g salt per 100g, 0.18g per portion
  3. Aldi Spread the Love, 1.7g salt per 100g, 0.17g per portion
  4. Lidl Heavenly Butter Spread, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion
  5. Marks & Spencer Touch of Butter, 1.6g salt per 100g, 0.16g per portion

“Our health would be better if we only had a ‘little’ bit of butter on our bread” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH. “Our love affair with butter is bad for our hearts, and not just because it is full of fat; we often spread it on toast, use it in baking or add it to our cooking without thinking how much salt it contains. Just one slice of buttered toast can contain more salt than a packet of crisps, so it’s worth looking at the label and choosing a lower salt or unsalted spread, or just use a little less next time you reach for the butter knife!”

Shockingly, terms on the labels can be deceptive: the salt content of varieties claiming they are ‘slightly salted’ or ‘lighter’ often do not differ much from ‘salted’ or ‘full fat’ products. These products are targeting the health conscious shopper, who should expect these products to be lower in salt, when in fact they aren’t.

  • Weight Watchers Dairy Spread contains 2.5g salt per 100g – that as salty per 100g as seawater! vs Lurpak Spreadable Lighter Unsalted which contains NO salt per 100g (0g)
  • Marks & Spencer Softer Butter described as ‘slightly salted’ is actually saltier than its own Salted Farmhouse Butter (1.75g per 100g vs. 1.5 per 100g)

Graham MacGregor, CASH Chairman and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London says “It is a national scandal that there is still so much unnecessary salt in our food – for every one gram reduction in salt intake, we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, strokes and heart failures, half of which would have been fatal. As butter, margarine and other spreads are a hidden source of salt in our diets it is vital that the Department of Health ensures that manufacturers reduce the salt in these products immediately”

Salt is completely unnecessary in butter. The good news is that unsalted varieties of butter are available from all supermarkets and brands, and lower salt spreads are available if you read the labels carefully, though be aware; they are all still high in saturated fat.

Low examples of Margarines/Spreads

  1. Lurpak Spreadable Lighter Unsalted, 0g salt per 100g, 0g per portion
  2. Lurpak Unsalted Spreadable, 0g salt per 100g, 0g per portion
  3. Simply M&S Lower Fat Slightly Salted Spread, 0.75g salt per 100g, 0.08g per portion
  4. Bertolli Light Made with Mild Olive Oil, 0.8g salt per 100g, 0.08g per portion
  5. The Co-operative Spreadable Slightly Salted, 0.9g salt per 100g, 0.09g per portion

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation says “Shoppers clearly have to look twice when making the switch from butter to unsaturated spread. Not only do they need to keep an eye on the type of fat in their spreads but also how much salt they contain, too. With so many varieties on offer, picking a healthy spread is confusing enough for consumers. Manufactures and supermarkets must cut back on the salt in their products so there is one less thing for shoppers to worry about.”

Tips for making healthier choices

  • Opt for unsalted spreads and butters
  • Think twice about diet spreads with less fat, they may have a higher salt content
  • Have smaller portions or use it less often – a standard ‘portion’ is one catering pat of butter
  • Opt for olive oil, canola (rapeseed) oil or other vegetable oils high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat when cooking, as they have no salt and less saturated fat than butter

Source: Consensus Action on Salt & Health

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