LIFESTYLE

High Salt Levels In Cheese May Pose A Risk To Public Health, Study Finds

07/08/2014 09:45 BST | Updated 07/08/2014 09:59 BST

For those partial to some cheeky cheese and crackers in the evening, we have some bad news.

Research published in British Medical Journal has revealed many popular cheeses available in UK supermarkets are too salty and a risk to public health.

The worst offenders are halloumi and blue cheese such as Roquefort, which contain alarmingly high levels of salt - the cheeses contain more sodium than sea water!

Cottage cheese was found to contain the least amount of salt.

cheese

The research, carried out by Cash (Consensus Action on Salt & Health), analysed salt content data on labels of 612 British and imported cheese products sold in UK supermarkets in 2012.

It looked at the salt reduction targets for 10 popular cheeses set by the Food Standards Agency watchdog and implemented by the Department of Health, to be achieved by 2012.

Although 85% of cheeses have already met their targets, 81% would still get a red coulour/high rating under the 'traffic light' labelling scheme.

Researchers also found salt levels in cheddar - the nation's favourite cheese - tended to be higher in branded products like Cathedral City than in supermarket own-brand cheddar.

Five saltiest cheeses (grams of salt per 100g):

Halloumi 2.71

Imported blue cheese 2.71

Feta 2.51

Other processed (eg string cheese) 2.31

Edam 2.29

“Our finding of a high salt content in cheeses sold in the UK is similar to those observed in the USA, Australia, France, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Brazil, showing that high levels of salt in cheese is a global challenge,” the study authors wrote.

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According to The Guardian, Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Cash, said: "Reducing salt is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

"Cheese is a big contributor of salt to the UK diet and it's vital the Department of Health forces the cheese industry to implement the new targets immediately – and to set more challenging targets for the future."

The study authors concluded that much larger reductions in the amount of salt added to cheese could be made, and more challenging targets need to be set for manufacturers if we are to continue including cheese in our regular diets.

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