New research from CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) looked at 772 cheese products available in UK supermarkets and found many were unnecessarily high in salt.
Eaten almost daily in lunchtime sandwiches, grated on pasta dishes or as an evening snack with crackers – cheese is a big part of the UK diet, bought by over 98 per cent of households [Ref 2] and is the third biggest contributor of salt to the UK diet, after bread and bacon.
Although not the saltiest variety of cheese in the survey, the nation’s favourite cheese, Cheddar, was found to contain more salt than a packet of crisps with an average of 0.52g salt per 30g portion – this includes reduced fat Cheddar-style cheeses.
High examples of Cheddar and Cheddar-style cheese (per 30g portion) include:
• Morrisons: Smooth & Tangy Farmhouse Cheddar – 0.63g
• Waitrose: West Country Farmhouse Cheddar – 0.58g
• Taw Valley Creamery: Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar – 0.57g
• Kerry LowLow: Mature Cheese – 0.57g
• Pilgrims Choice: Strong and Punchy Lighter Extra Mature Cheese – 0.57g
Low examples of Cheddar and Cheddar-style cheese (per 30g portion)
• Wyke Farm: Super Light – 0.37g
• Morrisons: Wm English Extra Mature Cheddar – 0.39g
• M&S: Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar Handmade in Moorhayes Farm Somerset – 0.44g
• The Co-operative: Healthier Choice Mild White Cheese – 0.45g
• Waitrose: Reduced Fat Lighter Mild Cheese – 0.47g
Per 100g average, Feta (2.51g), Cheese Singles (2.51g) and Halloumi (2.71g) were found to contain more salt per 100g than seawater. The saltiest type of cheese in the survey was the French sheep’s milk blue cheese Roquefort, with many versions containing over a gram of salt per portion – that’s more salt than found in a rasher of bacon. Varieties of Mozzarella (0.98g), Emmental (1.07g) and Wensleydale (1.13g) were found to be some of the lowest in the survey.
The research also revealed the huge variation in salt content between cheese products, even within the same category, for example The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Piccante Gorzonzola at 0.98g salt per portion is nearly six times saltier than Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Torta con Gorgonzola 0.17g salt per portion. Waitrose Wensleydale at 0.48g per portion is over twice as salty as Tesco Finest Wensleydale (with Cranberries and Blueberries) at 0.2g per portion.
CASH expressed concern that due to the high amounts of salt in processed cheeses, parents can feed their children an excessive amount of salt unknowingly. For instance Iceland Cheese Food Slices contain more salt than a packet of crisps in just one slice at 0.56g salt per 20g portion (2.8g of salt per 100g). Tesco has recently relaunched their Cheese Slices which have over 25 per cent less salt at 0.4g salt per 20g portion (2.0g salt per 100g).
Graham MacGregor, CASH Chairman and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute says:
“Cheese is still a big contributor of salt in the diet. We urge the government to stop dragging its heels and set new, lower, targets for cheese manufacturers to work towards.”
He continued by saying that, “Even small reductions will have large health benefits, for every one gram reduction in population salt intake we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, stroke and heart failure, half of which would have been fatal.
“The Department of Health must now stop its delaying tactics and set new much lower targets for cheese manufacturers, and make sure they achieve them. The cheese industry must comply if we are to save the maximum number of lives”.