I was alerted to the hidden danger of salt lurking in our supermarket cheeses by an article in the Times which found some supermarket cheeses contained more salt than seawater.
Seawater contains 3.5g of salt per 100g and some of the cheeses in Britain were as high as 4.55g per 100g.
In the UK, people are advised to eat no more than 6g of salt in their diet every day and in New Zealand we are advised to eat between 930mg and 2300mg of sodium, which is equivalent to 2.3g to 5.5g of salt a day.
Too much salt in our diet is associated with an increased risk of raised blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Higher sodium intakes have been shown to increase calcium losses in the urine, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
To calculate salt amounts on ingredient labels multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5.
• Pasteurised milk - This is a standard ingredient for cheese. It is raw cow's milk which has been heated to kill off any harmful bacteria.
• Salt - You still get 620mg of sodium per 100g of this cheese. This is the equivalent of 1.5g of salt
• Culture - This is a standard ingredient for cheese as it gives it the bacteria required to form cheese.
• Rennet - This is used in cheese-making to separate the curds from the whey in milk.
• Cheese (minimum 65% made from cow's milk, salt, culture, rennet) - This has all the same ingredients as the cheese above, and it tells us that this product is made up of 65% of cheese - the rest is listed below.
• Milk solids - These are the solids that are left when milk is dehydrated.
• Emulsifiers (331, 339) - These are sodium citrate (331), which is a salt of citric acid, and sodium phosphate (339) which is a salt of phosphoric acid. Both will be in the cheese to maintain its texture.
• Acidity regulator (330) - This is citric acid.
• Salt - The total content of sodium per 100g of this cheese is 1600mg compared to 620mg of sodium for the Signature Range cheese. This is just over two and a half times more sodium than the Signature Range. The salt content is 4g, which is higher than the salt content of seawater at 3.5g.
• Preservative (200) - This is sorbic acid.
Sliced cheese is handy, and processed cheese has a different texture and flavour which many people enjoy. But consuming more salt than seawater just doesn't make sense for your health or your tastebuds.
Opt for normal cheese with four ingredients and you'll also keep out preservatives and additives which you don't need.