Sodium content of processed foods in the United Kingdom: Analysis of 44,000 foods purchased by 21,000 households

From the Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, United Kingdom (CNM and SAJ); the Clinical Trials Research Unit, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand (CNM); Kantar Worldpanel, London, United Kingdom (CC); and the George Institute for International Health, Sydney, Australia (EKD, JLW, and BCN).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 6.77). 03/2011; 93(3):594-600. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.110.004481
Source: PubMed


In the United Kingdom, sodium reduction targets have been set for a large number of processed food categories. Assessment and monitoring are essential to evaluate progress.
Our aim was to determine whether household consumer panel food-purchasing data could be used to assess the sodium content of processed foods. Our further objectives were to estimate the mean sodium content of UK foods by category and undertake analyses weighted by food-purchasing volumes.
Data were obtained for 21,108 British households between October 2008 and September 2009. Purchasing data (product description, product weight, annual purchases) and sodium values (mg/100 g) were collated for all food categories known to be major contributors to sodium intake. Unweighted and weighted mean sodium values were calculated.
Data were available for 44,372 food products. The largest contributors to sodium purchases were table salt (23%), processed meat (18%), bread and bakery products (13%), dairy products (12%), and sauces and spreads (11%). More than one-third of sodium purchased (37%) was accounted for by 5 food categories: bacon, bread, milk, cheese, and sauces. For some food groups (bread and bakery, cereals and cereal products, processed meat), purchase-weighted means were 18-35% higher than unweighted means, suggesting that market leaders have higher sodium contents than the category mean.
The targeting of sodium reduction in a small number of food categories and focusing on products sold in the highest volumes could lead to large decreases in sodium available for consumption and therefore to gains in public health.

Full-text preview

Available from:
  • Source
    • "j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s e v i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / a p p e t recommended levels (Villani, Clifton, & Keogh, 2012). Reducing sodium intake may be difficult for individuals as more than 80% comes from processed foods (Ni Mhurchu et al., 2011; Webster, Dunford, & Neal, 2010). This may present an opportunity as food industry action has resulted in salt reduction of approximately 15% in the UK (He, Brinsden, & MacGregor, 2014). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background: Despite good evidence that reducing sodium intake can reduce blood pressure (BP), salt intake in people with type 1 diabetes (T1DM) or type 2 diabetes (T2DM) remains high. The purpose of this study was to describe the knowledge and beliefs of health risks associated with a high salt diet in adults with diabetes. Methods: Men and women with T1DM (n = 27; age 38 ± 16 years) or T2DM (n = 124; age 60 ± 11 years) were recruited. Results: Nine (6.0%) respondents knew the correct maximum daily recommended upper limit for salt intake. Thirty-six (23.9%) participants were not concerned with the amount of salt in their diet. Most participants knew that a diet high in salt was related to high BP (88.1%) and stroke (78.1%) and that foods such as pizza (80.8%) and bacon (84.8%) were high in salt. Fewer than 30% of people knew that foods such as white bread, cheese and breakfast cereals are high in salt (white bread 28.5%, cheese 29.1%, breakfast cereals 19.9%) and 51.0% correctly ranked three different nutrition information panels based on the sodium content. Label reading and purchase of low salt products was used by 60-80% of the group. Estimated average 24 hour urinary sodium excretion was 169 ± 32 mmol/24 h in men and 115 ± 27 mmol/24 h in women. Conclusion: Label reading and purchase of low salt products was used by the majority of the group but their salt excretion was still high. Men who used label reading had a lower salt intake. Other strategies to promote a lower sodium intake such as reducing sodium in staple foods such as bread need investigation.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Appetite
  • Source
    • "There was a considerable range of processed foods sold within the countries, although far less than was found in similar surveys in the United Kingdom [11] and Australia [6]. The variety of foods sold did not mirror country size or extent of urbanisation [12], for example Fiji has the largest population out of the countries studied, and yet Guam had the largest product availability. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: There is an increasing reliance on processed foods globally, yet food composition tables include minimal information on their nutrient content. The Pacific Islands share common trade links and are heavily reliant on imported foods. The objective was to develop a dataset for the Pacific Islands on nutrient composition of processed foods sold and their sources. Information on the food labels, including country of origin, nutrient content and promotional claims were recorded into a standardised dataset. Data were cleaned, converted to per 100g data as needed and then checked for anomalies and recording errors.Setting: Five representative countries were selected for data collection, based on their trading patterns: Fiji, Guam, Nauru, New Caledonia, and Samoa. Data were collected in the capitals, in larger stores which import their own foods. Subjects: Processed foods in stores. The data from 6041 foods and drinks were recorded. Fifty four countries of origin were identified, with the main provider of food for each Pacific Island country being that with which it was most strongly linked politically. Nutrient data were not provided for 6% of the foods, imported from various countries. Inaccurate labels were found on 132 products. Over one-quarter of the foods included some nutrient or health-related claims. The globalisation of the food supply is having considerable impacts on diets in the Pacific Islands. While nutrient labels can be informative for consumers looking for healthier options, difficulties still exist with poor labelling and interpretation can be challenging.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Globalization and Health
  • Source
    • "Data from Australia and New Zealand have been used to compare temporal changes in the sodium content of breads over a four year period (Dunford et al., 2011a, 2011b) since this has been a focus of salt reduction efforts in both countries. Likewise, a broad-based cross-sectional analysis compared the sodium levels in major processed food categories between the UK and Australia in 2010 (Ni Mhurchu et al., 2011). Results from an analysis of the Brazilian food composition database have shown that some modifications in the formulations of the products are necessary, such as the reduction in SFA and sodium content (Menezes et al., 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Excess energy, saturated fat, sugar and salt from processed and fast foods are a major cause of chronic disease worldwide. In 2010 The Food Monitoring Group established a global branded food composition database to track the nutritional content of foods and make comparisons between countries, food companies and over time. A protocol for the project was agreed and published in 2011 with 24 collaborating countries. Standardised tools and a website have been developed to facilitate data collection and entry. In 2010 data were obtained from nine countries, in 2011 from 12 and in 2012 data are anticipated from 10 additional countries. This collaborative approach to the collation of food composition data offers potential for cross-border collaboration and support in developed and developing countries. The project should contribute significantly to tracking progress of the food industry and governments towards commitments made at the recent UN high level meeting on chronic disease.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Food Chemistry
Show more