Posh salt

‘‘Posh’ salt health claims should be taken with a grain of salt!

So-called “gourmet” rock and sea salt are no different from ordinary table salt, despite manufacturers’ claims that the products are “natural” and “contain minerals”, a new study suggests.

Rock and sea salt have been made popular by TV chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein who sprinkle them liberally on their dishes. They are the fastest-growing ranges in the UK’s retail salt market – valued at £21m.

However, research from Cash (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) and consumer watchdog Which? reveals that sodium chloride accounts for nearly 100% of all rock and sea salts surveyed and therefore is just a “more expensive way of damaging health”. The study found that health claims on labels fuel confusion with nearly a quarter of 1,358 Which? members polled (24%) admitting thinking rock and sea salts are healthier than table salt.

In the study the sodium chloride and moisture content of seven different salt products available from supermarkets and online were analysed – including “posh” salts such as Maldon and Himalayan (Best Care Products) and Saxa table salt. Cash said the results show they all contain just as much sodium chloride as each other.

Rock and sea salt cost also cost significantly more than table salt, and nearly half (46%) of Which? members who buy salt said they thought it was worth paying extra for. The study cites a 22-fold difference in price between the premium Halen Môn Pure White Sea Salt at £1.80 and Saxa Table Salt at 8p per 100g. Fleur de Sel from Zauber der Gewürze, a specialist salt, costs £9.29 per 100g.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and chairman of Cash, said: “It is disgraceful that chefs still encourage people to use so much sea and rock salt. This has the added danger that, as the crystal sizes are much larger and don’t taste as salty, more salt is consumed. Reducing salt intake by just 1 gram per day is predicted to prevent over 6,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks a year.”

The truth behind popular gourmet salt myths (according to Cash)

Myth 1. Gourmet salts contain less sodium than table salt so are better for your health
Gourmet salts contain approximately 100% sodium chloride, just like your average table salt, meaning they will have exactly the same effect on your blood pressure and health.

Myth 2. Gourmet salts contain minerals essential for good health
Gourmet salts are not a good source of essential minerals, instead you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Myth 3. Gourmet salts taste better or stronger so you can use less
There is no evidence that people use less of any type of salt. If you prefer the flavour of a particular type of salt, and really want to use it, use less to help cut down on your salt intake. Some gourmet salts also have a larger crystal size, these might not taste as salty as finer grains so the danger is you could end up using even more!

Myth 4. Gourmet salts are “natural” so are better for your health
All salt can be considered “natural”, a term which infers healthy, but as they are all made of sodium chloride, they are not healthy.

Myth 5. Salt is needed in food for flavour
There are plenty of great flavours around, such as herbs, spices, pepper, lemon and garlic, which can be used instead of salt to flavour food. It only takes a couple of weeks to get used to food without salt so stick with it!

Consensus Action on Salt & Health: Read more