Shoppers are being warned to save their money and stop buying expensive salt.
Consumer NZ has conducted an investigation into specialty salts, which have become increasingly popular over recent years.
It looked at sea salts and Himalayan salts. These products can cost up to 50 times the price of standard table salt, and are promoted as better for you, less refined and containing trace minerals.
Countdown said there had been strong growth in sales of the salts. “Sales of artisan salts have grown by around 15 per cent over the last year, which shows a steady interest in these types of products. Himalayan salt products have seen the most growth, mostly influenced by New Zealanders continued interest in trying out new products that they read and see about on cooking shows,” a spokesman said.
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But Consumer NZ said that was just marketing hype. “The amount of salt you would need to consumer to get much benefit from these trace minerals means you’d also have to significantly increase your sodium intake.”
It pointed to brands including Himalayan Harvest and Mrs Rogers, which claims to contain iron and calcium in their natural form. But consumer said people would not eat enough to get the benefit of them.
“A recipe that calls for half a teaspoon of Himalayan Harvest rock salt to be used in the preparation of a 120g rump steak adds just 0.07 milligrams of iron to the meat’s 4.3mg. But that half teaspoon alone would supply half your recommended daily maximum sodium intake.”
University of Auckland public health and nutrition researcher Helen Eyles told Consumer that the most important nutrient to look for in salt was iodine. But most of the specialty salts are not iodised.
Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull said people should have no more than 6g of salt a day, which is about a teaspoon. Most people would get 75 per cent of that amount just through their processed food.
She agreed it was not worth spending more on expensive salts. She said some people were using more salt than they had previously, believing their new types were good for them. “Just get those minerals from your diet.”
We taste-tested Mrs Rogers Himalayan pink salt, which was on sale at Countdown for $7.50 for 200g this week. Testers described it as not as salty as the other salts tested, with a different texture. Homebrand iodised table salt, $1.50, was described as a soft salty flavour and MasterFoods’ sea salt grater, $6 for 90g as the saltiest option.
The Himalayan option was voted the best. But one tester said; “There’s only a very slight difference between them all. If you were putting them on your food you would not care.”