Sodium-loaded ‘Meat-free’ options could be tricking consumers, study shows


Beef Central (AU)

September 11, 2019


THEY might be plant-based, gluten-free, organic and vegan, but many meat-free alternative products are highly processed and packed with salt, recent research has shown, making them more ‘stealthy’ than ‘healthy’.


Some surveys suggest more than 2.5 million Australians now claim to be eating ‘meat-free’ options, and the choice of alternatives such as meat-free bacon, burgers and sausages has almost tripled in supermarkets in less than a decade. But new research has revealed some popular products are hiding up to half a day’s worth of salt in just one serve.


But a new report from The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation revealed meat-free bacon had the highest average amounts of salt (2g salt per 100g), containing well over a third of a day’s worth of salt, followed by falafels (1.3g salt per 100g); meat-free sausages (1.3g salt per 100g), which contained over a quarter. Meat free burgers peaked at 681.7mg of salt per 100g of product.


But it was a vegan pie that took out the saltiest product award, containing half of the daily recommended salt intake in just one serve. The recommended daily maximum for salt intake is less than a teaspoon, or 5 grams, but Australians are consuming nearly double that.[ii]


The average sodium content of ‘meat-free’ products tested was 440mg/100g.


Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong said the report found high levels of salt in falafels, which is a concern because they are increasingly popular, with five times as many products available in supermarkets now as in 2010 – a growth of 380 per cent.


“Our research showed that there are large ranges in the amount of salt between meat alternative products, but it is possible to choose a healthier item by picking the lower salt option. It also clearly shows that manufacturers can produce products that are much lower in salt,” Ms Armstrong said.


The report analysed the salt content in more than 560 meat alternative products on supermarket shelves from 2010 to 2019.


Key findings:


more, including link to full report from the George Institute for Global Health