Article Oct 25, 2018

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Many popular meat alternatives 'exceeding salt limits'

Meat substitutes are rising in popularly as more people embrace vegan and vegetarian diets.

However, health experts are urging consumers to check the labels of alternative foods after a survey found that many products contain a lot of salt.

According to officials at Action on Salt, the group based at Queen Mary University of London, 28 per cent of all products analyzed were higher in salt than the maximum salt targets for food.

"Research has highlighted that we must reduce the amount of meat we eat to reduce the negative impact of climate change," said Mhairi Brown, a nutritionist at Action on Salt, in a statement. "The food industry has ensured greater availability of meat-free alternatives, but now they must do more to ensure that meat-free alternatives contain far less salt - at the very least lower than their meat equivalents."

The researchers found the saltiest products were Tofurky's Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco's Meat Free Bacon Style Rashers, which both contained "much more salt per 100g than seawater".

Out of the 157 meat alternative products surveyed, the highest average salt content per 100g was found in meat-free bacon and meat-free sliced meat. Per portion, vegetarian kievs were the saltiest - saltier than a large portion of McDonald's fries - followed by meat-free sausages and, interestingly, plain meat-free pieces and fillets.

In light of the findings, experts at Action on Salt want to see the government enforce salt level targets and promote front of pack color-coded labeling.

"It's important to be aware that some of the plant-based alternatives to meat currently available are salty," added Heather Russell, a dietitian at The Vegan Society. "Look after your heart by using food labels to keep an eye on salt content and choosing lower salt everyday sources of protein like canned beans and chickpeas in water, red split lentils, pure peanut butter, unsalted nuts, pumpkin seeds, the dry variety of soya mince, and plain tofu, which can be seasoned using spices."