It would be pretty presumptuous to assume that vegetarians eat meat-free sausages purely for health reasons. Who doesn’t enjoy a hit of fatty, salty food for breakfast, especially if it doesn’t involve the odds and ends of animals being squished into a tube?
That being said, when it comes to sodium, a lot of meatless sausages can apparently be just as unhealthy as the meat for which they’re ostensibly being substituted. The Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which describes itself as “a group concerned with salt and its effects on health, supported by 25 expert scientific members,” says that a recent survey of theirs “has exposed the shocking and excessively high amounts of salt in certain sausage brands.”
In a press release issued on Wednesday, CASH called out a wide range of sausage producers included in their “Sausages Survey 2017,” and a number of vegetarian brands were not spared. “Going meat free isn’t always healthier in terms of salt either; some vegetarian options are just as salty,” CASH wrote in the press release. “Quorn’s 4 Best of British Sausages have a whopping 1.9g salt/100g dishing up 2.2g salt in 2 sausages—that’s more salt than half a Pizza Hut Margherita Pizza!”
The survey was undertaken by CASH in concert with Queen Mary University of London, where CASH Chairman Graham MacGregor is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. MacGregor was adamant about the potentially widespread health implications of a nation hooked on tubes of meat (or meat replacements) that make it very difficult for consumers to stay within their daily recommended sodium intake.
“Public Health England, who is now responsible, must get tough on those companies not complying and set new mandatory targets to be achieved by 2020 without further delay,” MacGregor said. “Otherwise, thousands of people will die from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks every year. Salt reduction is the most cost-effective and most successful public health preventive measure made to date, and it is a national tragedy that it is being allowed to fail.”
Public Health England’s Chief Nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone responded, in the same press release, by saying, “We’ve been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. We’ll report on their progress next year and will provide advice to government on the next steps.”
Sausage is a staple of the British diet, and last year, 175,713 tons of sausage made their way into 85 percent of households, according to the pig farm industry, so MacGregor's medical fears that "thousands of people will die from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks" may not be so hyperbolic. That level of sausage consumption equated to 61 grams of sodium, or 134 bags of pre-salted chips per person, per year, says CASH. So, that's a lot.
Of course, if you're eating sausages, hot dogs, or meat substitutes, you're probably not a health nut. But at least this clears it up: Plant-based foods can be pretty crappy for you, too.