This month has seen the release of findings from yet more research into hidden salt in food. This time the target of the Low Salt Brigade was our beloved tea-break companion – the humble biscuit.
But before we go on, it’s worth noting although described in the report as “hidden” the amount of salt in each biscuit is clearly shown on the nutritional information label for all to see. And although described as “research” it presumably involved someone going to the supermarket, reading the labels and noting down the number.
But from this trip to the shops another national health scare has been generated – as it was discovered there is more “hidden” salt in a biscuit than there is in a fish finger and a chicken nugget.
Now this comparison was clearly designed to shock – “More salt than a fish finger, you say?!” – but in all honesty how many of us could truly say we know how much salt there is in a fish finger or a chicken nugget let alone whether it’s bad for us or not.
As is ever the case with these artificially created health scares the implication here is very clearly if you eat biscuits the salt in them will kill you. The Daily Mail even went as far as reporting the findings under the headline “Children at risk of toxic salt overdose from sweet biscuits”. “Overdose” is such an incredibly emotive word with very clear overtones of death that it really shouldn’t be used so wantonly as the Mail has done. What’s more it’s also incredibly inaccurate.
Thanks to the wonders of the human body and homeostasis, our kidneys remove any excess salt in our system. This makes accidentally overdose on salt incredibly hard to do – as we have to consume a huge amount of salt in a very short period of time so that our kidneys simply cannot keep up. In general our bodies tell us to stop eating salt long before we come close to dangerous levels of consumption.
And despite the report’s attempt to convince you otherwise, the relatively low amount of salt in a biscuit makes it all but impossible to eat enough of them to overdose.
In fact if you did eat enough biscuits to get anywhere near overdosing on salt, however many hundreds of biscuits that might be, it certainly wouldn’t be salt that’s the biggest threat to your health.
Because with 0.2g of salt in a chocolate Hobnob an adult would have to eat 30 of them each and every day to consume the NHS’s recommended daily allowance of salt. By eating those 30 biscuits you would also be consuming 66 grams of saturated fat – over double the NHS’s RDA of 30 grams.
So with the effects of salt intake continuing to be called into question but the effect of saturated fat intake there for everyone to see, it’s clear that if your main concern is public health to single out the salt content in these foods is simply ridiculous.
What this all boils down to is despite the hyperbole used in the coverage of this research the reality is you can still safely enjoy a biscuit or two with your elevenses and rest assured this report is just another storm in a teacup.
And, to satisfy your curiosity, there’s 0.08g of sodium in a single Birds Eye cod fish finger and 0.092g in a single 90g chicken nugget. That means you’d have to eat 75 fish fingers and 62 chicken nuggets to hit the NHS’s RDA for salt.