Does cheese contain too much salt?

Many of us enjoy a strong, salty cheese, like a mature cheddar or a grilled halloumi. However, high salt content can be damaging for health. And cheese, according to Action on Salt, certainly has a high salt content.

According to the campaign group’s new report, cheese producers are putting too much salt in their products. Action on Sugar has found that 30g of cheddar contains on average more salt than a packet of crisps.

The research, which assessed 600 cheddars and similar cheeses across 10 UK retailers, found that few products showed a significant decrease in salt content over the past decade.

Voluntary salt reduction targets ‘too lenient’

Dairy-based cheese didn’t come out well in the report. In particular, cheddar cheese, which according to manufacturers such as Branston and Cartwright & Butler is the UK’s favourite cheese, has on average 1.78g of salt per 100g.

This has not decreased, but in fact slightly increased over time. In 2012, for example, the average salt content in cheddar was 1.68g per 100g.

Action on Salt suggested that the UK Government’s salt targets were too lenient. Image Source: Getty Images/Danielle Wood

However, many of the cheeses assessed already fall below the maximum salt target set in 2020 by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, which asks manufacturers to reduce salt content in cheddar and hard-pressed cheese to below 1.9g per 100g, with an average salt target of 1.66g per 100g, to be achieved by the end of this year.

This, in the view of Action on Salt, is too lenient. “The target for hard-pressed cheese has remained fairly constant since the first targets were set in 2006, and based on previous data from 2012, we have seen little to no reductions in salt for this category. Despite this, many of the cheese products available today fall below the maximum salt target set to be achieved by end of 2024. The large variations in salt seen in our report make it clear that the targets are far too lenient, with scope for further reductions,” Sonia Pombo, Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Lead at Action on Salt, told FoodNavigator.