Alarming levels of salt found in 'healthy' breads, say researchers
Just one slice of a seemingly "healthy" bread in the supermarket can contain double the typical amount of salt in a packet of chips, a new study shows.
Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health analysed nearly 1500 bread products, including loaves, crumpets and flat breads, over the past seven years and found "healthy" options such as rye and sourdough had alarming levels of salt.
They found some loaves contained more than one-third of the daily recommended salt intake of five grams in just two slices.
One of the most concerning products was Schwob's Dark Rye, which had 1.2 grams of salt per slice (70g). To compare, a small packet of Kettle's sea salt chips has less than half the amount.
"We know that excess salt in our diet increases blood pressure and the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, so our findings are incredibly worrying especially as many of the products that have the highest levels of salt are perceived by families as being the healthiest," lead author Clare Farrand said.
Bowan Island's Wholemeal Sourdough was also highlighted for its salt content, which at 1.6g of salt per 100g, was nearly three times saltier than the best option, Bill's Certified Organic 100 per cent Wholemeal Sourdough.
The researchers found flat breads had the highest average sodium content in all breads analysed in 2017.
They found the worst option was Mission's Chapattis Garlic, which at 2.3g of salt per 100g, was 23 times saltier than the best option - Mission's White Corn Tortillas.
Mission was attacked in an advertising campaign last year by Goodman Fielder that sought to promote its "healthier" option, Helga's wraps.
At the time it claimed: "If you choose to eat the leading wrap product on the market (Mission Original Wraps), you'll add 90 teaspoons of salt to your diet every year."
Ms Farrand said they found "huge" variations in salt levels in each bread category, which showed there was a clear opportunity for manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their recipes.
For example, two slices of Schwob's white sourdough had nearly 80 per cent more salt than two slices of Aldi's Baker's Life Super Soft White Sandwich Bread.
She said in good news the research revealed salt levels in breads and bread rolls had dropped by about 10 per cent over the past seven years.
In 2009, the federal government set salt reduction targets for three major categories, including bread, in a bid to achieve the World Health Organisation's aim of reducing global salt intake by 30 per cent by 2025.
The target for bread was set as 400mg of sodium (1g of salt) per 100g.
The researchers found 81 per cent of breads covered by the Food and Health Dialogue (FHD) initiative met the target in 2017, compared to 37 per cent in 2010.
But only two-thirds of breads in their study were covered by the targets. When it came to those excluded, such as flat breads, only 49 per cent met the targets,
"What Australia needs is a consistent drop in salt levels across all processed foods, not just in some breads," Ms Farrand said.
"This can only be achieved if we have comprehensive government and industry supported salt reduction targets for all product categories."
Gluten free breads were excluded from the initiative, but a third failed to meet the 400mg of sodium per 100g target. Gluten Free Crostini Bread Rolls contained double the target amount.
The research was released to mark the 10th World Salt Awareness Week.
David Cummings, owner of Sydney-based Bowan Island Bakery, said he was interested in the study's findings and they had begun a review on sodium levels across its range.
Schwob's Swiss Bakery did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.