Popular vegetarian sausages are so salty that one portion contains more than half a pizza, research has warned.
Meat-free sausages including some made by Linda McCartney and Quorn contain significantly more salt than the level recommended by Public Health England, Consensus Action on Salt and Health found.
Despite their “healthy” image many vegetarian sausages were given “red flags” by Cash as they were found to be among the saltiest of all sausages on the market.
The British public eat more than 175,000 tonnes of sausages each year, which amounts to 61g of salt per person – the equivalent of 134 packets of ready salted crisps.
Eating too much salt has been linked to degenerative health conditions including heart disease.
The average salt content of sausages is 1.3g per 100g, a figure that has remained relatively unchanged since 2011 and exceeded salt reduction targets at the time, Cash said. Now Cash is calling for the setting of new mandatory salt targets, arguing that the food industry has “failed to protect the public’s health voluntarily”.
Quorn’s vegetarian “Best of British Sausages” contained 1.9g of salt per 100g, or 2.2g in two sausages, which is more than the salt content of half a Pizza Hut Margherita pizza.
And Linda McCartney’s “Vegetarian” and “Red Onion & Rosemary” Sausages both contain 1.6g of salt per 100g. Public Health England wants all sausages to contain less than 1.38g of salt per 100g by January 2018.
Eight out of ten products analysed had traffic light warnings for salt on the front of packs allowing customers to see how much they contain. However a number of brands producing the saltiest sausages including Richmond, Wall’s and Iceland, failed to provide this.
Dr Alison Tedstone, Public Health England’s chief nutritionist, said: “Our salt consumption has decreased over the last decade – a loaf of bread has 40 per cent less than it used to.
“However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. “We’ve been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. We’ll report on their progress next year and will provide advice to Government on the next steps.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Cash, said: “The UK has led the world on salt reduction but this survey clearly shows that many companies are not cooperating with the current voluntary policy.
“Public Health England, who is now responsible, must get tough on those companies not complying and set new mandatory targets to be achieved by 2020 without further delay. Otherwise, thousands of people will die from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks every year.”
A Quorn spokesman said: “Quorn produces a range of sausages, with its bestselling Quorn Sausages being low in salt and highlighted on the front of pack.
“The range featured by Cash is Quorn’s Best of British Sausages which offers slightly more indulgent sausages. Whilst they are higher in salt, as clearly marked on pack, they are still low in saturated fat.”