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BMJ Open 4:e005051 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005051
  • Public health
    • Research

Cross-sectional survey of salt content in cheese: a major contributor to salt intake in the UK

Press Release
  1. Graham A MacGregor
  1. Centre for Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and the London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Kawther Hashem; k.hashem{at}qmul.ac.uk
  • Received 13 February 2014
  • Revised 29 May 2014
  • Accepted 6 June 2014
  • Published 18 July 2014

Abstract

Objective To investigate the salt (sodium chloride) content in cheese sold in UK supermarkets.

Study design We carried out a cross-sectional survey in 2012, including 612 cheeses available in UK supermarkets.

Methods The salt content (g/100 g) was collected from product packaging and nutrient information panels of cheeses available in the top seven retailers.

Results Salt content in cheese was high with a mean (±SD) of 1.7±0.58 g/100 g. There was a large variation in salt content between different types of cheeses and within the same type of cheese. On average, halloumi (2.71±0.34 g/100 g) and imported blue cheese (2.71±0.83 g/100 g) contained the highest amounts of salt and cottage cheese (0.55±0.14 g/100 g) contained the lowest amount of salt. Overall, among the 394 cheeses that had salt reduction targets, 84.5% have already met their respective Department of Health 2012 salt targets.

Cheddar and cheddar-style cheese is the most popular/biggest selling cheese in the UK and has the highest number of products in the analysis (N=250). On average, salt level was higher in branded compared with supermarket own brand cheddar and cheddar-style products (1.78±0.13 vs 1.72±0.14 g/100 g, p<0.01). Ninety per cent of supermarket own brand products met the 2012 target for cheddar and cheddar-style cheese compared with 73% of branded products (p=0.001).

Conclusions Salt content in cheese in the UK is high. There is a wide variation in the salt content of different types of cheeses and even within the same type of cheese. Despite this, 84.5% of cheeses have already met their respective 2012 targets. These findings demonstrate that much larger reductions in the amount of salt added to cheese could be made and more challenging targets need to be set, so that the UK can continue to lead the world in salt reduction.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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