Salt content on bacon food labels misleading consumers - report

Some bacon products analysed found to have 50% more salt than labels suggest

Some 25 per cent of the bacon products analysed in a new study by food scientists  were found to have salt content which was above the guidelines with some of the products assessed having as much as 50 per cent more salt than the packaging suggested. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Some 25 per cent of the bacon products analysed in a new study by food scientists were found to have salt content which was above the guidelines with some of the products assessed having as much as 50 per cent more salt than the packaging suggested. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

 

Consumers who rely on food labels to tell them how much salt they are consuming when eating bacon are frequently fed the wrong information, a report by food scientists working under the auspices of Teagasc has found.

The new report from the agriculture and food development authority in cooperation with the School of Nutritional Sciences in University College Cork looked at the composition of 30 different cooked hams and 36 bacon products purchased in four different Irish retailers.

On the surface it would appear that all the products fall within recommended guidelines for salt but when the researchers drilled a little deeper they uncovered evidence that all was not as it seemed.

The salt content of the bacon products ranged from 1.24 per cent to 4.71 per cent with the average coming in at 2.53 per cent.

The label-stated average was almost 1 per cent below the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)/industry-agreed guidelines for product of this nature.

However 25 per cent of the bacon products analysed were found to have salt content which was above the guidelines with some of the products assessed having as much as 50 per cent more salt than the packaging suggested.

On a one off basis discrepancies of this nature would not be significant but over a longer term the inaccurate salt readings could make it very difficult for consumers to understand and control their salt intake.

High consumption of meat and processed meat products has been regularly linked to increasing risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently included processed meat in the carcinogenic list.

The purpose of the study was to establish benchmark levels for salt and fat content in bacon products with a view to lower the salt and fat content. “The observation that some retail products had salt levels below the guidelines suggests that the task can be accomplished,” researchers said.

The study pointed to the use of “innovative salt and fat replacers to obtain healthier traditional processed meat products in a cleaner label fashion, and place particular emphasis on consumer sensory quality, food safety and commercial viability.”