Salt problems with meat
Added salt: Humble sausage could prove a snag for your health
High salt content in sausages can be a health snag.
A barbecued “snag” could well be Australia’s national dish, but health groups are now urging the public to turn away from the sausage sizzle in favour of healthier items such as a vegetable or chicken skewer.
New research analysing the salt content of more than 1000 processed meat products has found a sausage in bread with tomato sauce could contain 2.35 grams of salt.
That is nearly half the maximum daily intake recommended by the World Health Organisation of no more than 5 grams, raising alarm bells for those at risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
“Australians love our snags on the BBQ, but I think most people would be surprised to learn just how much salt is in these sausages,” said VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter.
Somewhat controversially, the report from The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation names and shames the saltiest varieties of sausages available at the nation’s four major grocery stores: Coles, Woolworths, ALDI and IGA.
Coles’ Thin Pork BBQ sausages came in at No.1, with 2.9 grams of salt per 100 grams – just three of these sausages would exceed a person’s recommended daily salt dose.
In fact, Coles’ sausages dominated the top five saltiest snags, bar one sausage brand from ALDI, its Brannan’s Butchery Classic Aussie Beef Sausages, which came in at number three, with 2.4 grams of salt per 100 grams.
However Coles took umbrage at the method of comparison, with a spokeswoman saying that while Coles based its nutritional information on the cooked product, other brands used nutritional values from the raw sausages, which contained extra water.
“As cooking leads to a reduction in water content and concentrates other ingredients, the sodium value for cooked products will always be significantly higher than for raw products and it is not valid to compare the two,” she said.
The spokeswoman said Coles had already worked with the food industry to reduce the levels of salt in foods such as breads, cereals and cheese. She said as part of the Healthy Food Partnership it is working on new recipe formulations for Coles brand sausages that will include lower targets for salt.
“As stated on the pack, one Coles thin pork BBQ sausage contains less than 40 per cent of the recommended daily intake of sodium, and can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet,” she said.
The coalition of health groups behind the report conceded that there may be variations in data dependent on whether raw or cooked sausages were assessed, but said this only highlighted how difficult it was for consumers trying to understand where salt was hiding in their food.
The coalition is calling for the Australian government to set voluntary salt targets for sausage manufacturers.
In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency has a target for sausages of no more than 1.38 grams of salt or 550 milligram of sodium per 100g. In 2017, almost 80 per cent of Australian sausages exceeded this.
The findings are considered concerning because the sodium in salt can increase blood pressure and, as a result, the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke.
Since 2010, there has been a 17 per cent reduction in the salt content of bacon (from 3.1 grams per 100 gram, to 2.6 grams), but no significant decrease in the salt content of sausages.
Heart Foundation Victoria dietitian Sian Armstrong said it was of great concern that there had been no improvement in almost a decade given the average Australian eats 44 sausages a year, containing 16 teaspoons of salt.
“We know one sausage in bread contains almost half the daily salt intake, but who really has only one sausage in bread most of the time?” she said.
“We know that sausages and bread are the cheap and convenient option for families and a lot of the time people aren’t just having one every now and again.
“We are really trying to get people to think about how often they are having sausages … and either having them less frequently, or having a look at the label and picking the one that has less salt.”
The office of the Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie confirmed the government’s Healthy Food Partnership was considering reformulation targets for sodium, saturated fat and sugars, with public consultation on targets for about 40 food categories to begin later this year.