Bread and cereals exposed as salt villains

Children starting the day with high salt intake


A survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that bread and cereals make up two of the three biggest salt-contributing foods in our diet. Yet many parents think that these are healthy options for breakfast.


When the FSA asked a poll of shoppers to pick the top three sources of salt from a list of the 10 foods that contribute the most salt to our diets, only 13 per cent of people said bread, and 12 per cent breakfast cereals.

In fact around 35 per cent of the salt we consume comes from grain-based products such as breakfast cereals and bread. For example, Warburtons Our Thickest Slice bread contains 0.62g per slice – so eating four slices would be equivalent to eating five packets of crisps.

After grain-based products, the next biggest source of salt in the average diet is meat (26% of our intake) and then milk and dairy products (8%).

Excess salt raises blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The FSA estimates 16,000 lives could be saved every year if adults ate no more than 6g of salt a day.

For children, the recommended maximum daily salt level depends on age:

  • 1 to 3 years – 2 g salt a day
  • 4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day
  • 7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day
  • 11 and over – 6g salt a day

In response to growing concern about salt levels, cereal manufacturers have cut the levels of salt in their products  by around 40% since 1998. Quaker Oats has now introduced a new healthy, low-salt children’s cereal called Paw Ridge, specifically designed for little ones and with the lowest amount of salt in the children’s breakfast cereal market.


The advice from the FSA is to check the labels before buying. “We’re not suggesting people stop eating or even cut down on bread or breakfast cereals,” says Rosemary Hignett, the FSA’s head of nutrition, “as they are important part of a healthy diet. But we are saying take a look at the labels to find those products that are lower in salt. 

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