IT’S regarded as an Australian culinary classic, but the iconic sausage sandwich is putting our health at risk due to the high salt content found in processed meat.

A new study has found that the traditional sausage housed in white bread with tomato sauce contains 2.35gms of salt; nearly half of the recommended daily salt intake.

The study conducted by The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation analysed the salt content in more than 1000 popular processed meats such as sausages, ham and bacon from Australia’s four major supermarkets from 2010 to 2017.

The report on salt content in processed meats, released as part of World Salt Awareness Week, found on average that one sausage contains more than one-quarter (28%) of the recommended maximum daily salt intake.

A key finding of the study was that while there was a 17% reduction in the salt content of bacon from 2010-2017 and an 18% reduction in the salt reduction of sliced meats from 2010-2015, there was no reduction in the salt content of sausages.

This finding showed that the major manufacturers had the capacity to lower the salt content of processed meats, a capacity which Heart Foundation Victoria Dietician Sian Armstrong said should be applied to sausages as well.

“It’s a massive concern that in almost a decade there’s been no change to the salt levels in sausages,” she said.

“The average Aussie eats 44 sausages a year totalling 16 tablespoons of salt, and some sausages are three times saltier than others. We need targets to drive manufacturers to make their sausages less salty and improve the health of the population.”

Ms Armstrong said the excess salt found in sausages was associated with a number of health problems.

“Excess salt is directly linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke,” she said.

“One of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down is by eating less salt.”

Another key finding of the salt content report highlighted that just two Coles thin pork BBQ sausages, which were found to be the highest in salt content, equated to 80% of an entire days recommended maximum daily salt intake.

The report also found that while 63% of bacon products and 70% of sliced ham products met the Food and Health Dialogue target of less than 2.7g of salt/100g, no such targets were set for sausages.

The George Institute’s Public Health Nutritionist and the report’s lead author, Clare Farrand, said the findings were a concern given the popularity of sausages in Australia, and their place in the nations culture, and called for salt targets to be set for sausages.

“Some sausages contained 2g of salt per serving – eat two sausages, and that’s almost an entire days’ worth of salt (80%), before you’ve added any sauce or bread – in a single meal,” she said.

“We know that setting salt targets and regular monitoring of the food industry towards achieving the targets works,

“Currently there are no salt targets for sausages – which is of huge concern, given how much salt they contain, and their popularity,

“We hope the Healthy Food Partnership, addresses this gap, and sets targets for sausages in view of these results.”

With most Australians consuming almost double the recommended amount of salt per day in the form of annual consumption of 1.1 billion snags containing 1500 tonnes of salt, VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said other options needed to be considered for the BBQ.

“Australians love our snags on the BBQ but I think most people would be surprised to learn just how much salt is in these sausages,” she said.

“We understand that sausages can be a quick BBQ option, but next time why not try filling the hot plate with other healthier options like chicken or veggie skewers,

“Ultimately it shouldn’t be left totally up to the consumer to make healthy choices, we want to see manufacturers committing to reformulating their processed meats to have less salt – it can be done.”