New safefood research reveals high levels of salt in soup

21 March, 2011. safefood research (1) has found that 74% of soups served in cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and pubs contained more than a third of consumers’ maximum daily salt intake (2).

The new research, commissioned by safefood, also found that the soups marketed as “homemade” contained as much salt as other varieties of soup served.

The launch of the research findings coincide with World Salt Awareness Week (21st to 27th March 2011).

Commenting on the research, Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said, “We would tend to think of soup as a healthy option but many of us don’t consider the salt content in soups we eat outside the home. There is also a misconception that most of our salt is added at the table but in reality, the majority of salt in our diet is from eating processed foods. While the food industry has made significant reductions in the salt content of some foods, consumers need to be aware of the amount of salt that may be contained in a portion of soup”.

Notably, the safefood research revealed no difference between the salt content of ready to eat soups marketed and labelled as ‘homemade’ and other soups that did not make this claim. The research also found that the average serving (3) of soup contained 40% of the recommended maximum daily salt intake and that individual portion sizes of ready to eat soups varied greatly, ranging from 155 to 690 grams in a single serving.

“At present on the island of Ireland, we’re consuming on average more than double our recommended daily allowance of salt. Surprisingly, having a typical serving of soup with a ham sandwich could provide almost 85% of that daily salt intake”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan.

“There is overwhelming scientific consensus about the critical role played by excess salt intake in the development of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. As consumers, we need to make a conscious effort to reduce our salt intake to a level that is not damaging to our health, choosing lower salt options and eating less processed foods. But the catering industry also needs to play its part by providing lower salt options and reduced portion sizes”, she continued.

With a quarter of the food eaten by adults on the island of Ireland prepared and cooked outside the home, the aim of the safefood research is to provide a snapshopt of the salt content of soup from a range of catering outlets (4) across the island of Ireland. Soup was chosen as a food category as it is commonly consumed outside the home and is one of the targets for salt reduction in initiatives with the food industry (5).

Download the report Survey of salt levels in soup in catering establishments on the island of Ireland

For more information, visit the website or call the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67 / 0800 085 1683.

For more information on World Salt Awareness Week, visit

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For further information please contact:

Aoife McDonald / Kate Fitzgerald, WHPR
Telephone: 01 669 0030 / 087 4100777 (Aoife) and 086 3873083 (Kate)
Email: and

Dermot Moriarty, safefood
Tel: 01 448 0622 / 086 381 1034


(1) Research sampling and project management was conducted by Eolas International Research. Product analysis was undertaken by Exova, an Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) accredited laboratory on behalf of Eolas International.

(2) Adults should aim to eat no more than a maximum of 6g salt a day but research shows that in the Republic of Ireland, the average daily salt intake by adults is 9.3g (safefood “Salt: Hard to Shake” study 2010). In Northern Ireland the average intake of salt is 8.6g per day (Food Standards Agency UK Urinary Salt Study 2007).

(3) The average portion size of ready to eat soup sampled was 303g. The recommended portion size for healthy eating would be 200g.

(4) Soup samples were collected from 201 locations from three catering categories – fast food/convenience/garage/supermarket outlets; coffee shops; and pubs/hotels/restaurants. 66% of soup samples were from Republic of Ireland and 33% from Northern Ireland.

(5) Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Data on Progress in Salt Reduction in Ireland 2003-2008.