Saltiest savoury snack revealed

Wednesday, 11 March, 2020

Saltiest savoury snack revealed

While many Australians think veggie savoury snacks are healthier options, new research shows some products are hiding alarming amounts of salt. What’s more, the marketing claims on these products should be treated with caution as the highest and lowest veggie snacks both claimed to be ‘lightly salted’.

A new report into savoury snacks released by The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation revealed the saltiest product was a veg-based kale chip containing a whopping 7.8 g of salt per 100 g. The kale chip was 26 times saltier than the lowest product, a lightly salted sweet potato chip (0.3 g salt per 100 g). Another top category salt offender, a legume-based lentil chip (3.4 g salt per 100 g), had seven times more salt than its lower salt counterpart, pizza-flavoured fava beans (0.49 g salt per 100 g).

The research released for World Salt Awareness Week found the range of legume-based snacks, like lentil chips, roasted chickpeas and fava beans, available on Australian supermarket shelves has nearly doubled since 2013. Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong advised shoppers that as serving sizes vary greatly, people should compare processed snacks by reading the nutrition label and picking the lower salt option — less than 400 mg sodium per 100 g is OK.

Heart Foundation CEO Victoria Kellie-Ann Jolly said Australians, on average, eat nearly double the recommended maximum daily salt intake. “We should be eating less than a teaspoon a day, or 5 grams, while children need even less — around half a level teaspoon a day,” Jolly said.

The report analysed the salt content in more than 1500 savoury snacks products found in major Australian supermarkets between 2013 and 2019.

Key findings:

  • Of the 451 savoury snack products analysed in 2019, the average salt content was 1.5 g salt per 100 g and ranged from 0 to 7.8 g salt per 100 g.
  • Veg-based snacks had the largest range in salt content. The highest salt veg-based snack DJ&A Kale Chips Slow Roasted & Lightly Salted (7.8 g salt/100 g) contained 26 times more salt than the lowest variety, Thomas Chipman Certified Organic Vegetable Chips Lightly Salted Sweet Potato (0.3 g salt/100 g).
  • The highest legume-based snack contained 7 times more salt than the lowest. The highest, Simply 7 Lentil Chips Jalapeno contained 3.4 g salt/100 g, while the lowest, Macro Air Puffed Fava Beans Pizza Flavour and Coles Gluten Free Pizza Flavoured Faba Bean Packs, both contained 0.5 g salt/100 g.
  • Since 2013, the number of products in the savoury snack category has grown by 45%, with the highest growth in legume-based snacks (183%) and popcorn (67%).

The George Institute’s Senior Public Health Nutritionist and report lead author, Clare Farrand, said the salt content in veg-based snack products has increased by 68% since 2013, while other savoury snack categories saw a 14% decrease where salt targets had been set by government.

“Salt targets work. It is increasingly important that food manufacturers have salt targets to work towards, particularly as so many new products are coming on to the market. As we saw from our research, many manufacturers can and are already producing some products with much less salt; targets will motivate all manufacturers to do so, and level the playing field,” Farrand said.

“We are pleased to see the Healthy Food Partnership through the federal government has recently endorsed the first wave of salt targets, with a second expected to follow mid-2020. If Australia is to meet its commitment to a 30% reduction in the average population salt intake by 2025, these targets need to be implemented, with time bound commitments, and monitored to ensure food companies achieve them.”

VicHealth Chief Executive Officer Dr Sandro Demaio said, “There’s a lot of greenwashing and health washing that goes on with these products to convince us to buy them. Just because a product is labelled as organic, gluten-free or it sits in the health food aisle doesn’t mean it’s actually good for us.”

Image credit: © Africa

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