Research published by the pressure group, Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), has shown that many foods eaten by children in the UK still contain large amounts of salt, in some cases more than half the daily maximum limit for a six-year old in a single serving.

The research, carried out in collaboration with parenting website Netmums, highlighted products such as Batchelors Super Noodles To Go - Roast Chicken, Morrison's Southern Fried Chicken portions, Morrison's Baked Beans in tomato sauce, Tesco Thick Pork Sausages, Marks and Spencer Potato Croquettes, Kraft Dairylea Lunchables Ham 'n' Cheese Crackers and Chicago Town Triple Cheese individual small pizza as particularly high-salt products. All had over 1g of salt per serving, CASH reported, which is a third of a six year-old's daily maximum limit and half the daily salt limit for a three year-old.

Significantly, the study, published to coincide with the launch of Salt Awareness Week 2008, revealed that a number of popular sweet products, such as Butterkist popcorn, Heinz Treacle Sponge Pudding and Kellogg's Rice Krispies, had high levels of salt.

"With everything we know about the dangers of eating too much salt, parents need as much information as possible about how much salt is contained in the foods they give to their children, and food manufacturers need to do as much as they can to reduce the amount of salt they add to foods that are eaten by children," said Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH and professor of cardiovascular medicine at St George's Hospital in London. "We know that a lot of work has been done by some companies to reduce salt in products eaten by children. We want to see all manufacturers doing everything they can to reduce the salt they put in children's food. If they really cannot reduce the salt content in food eaten by children to reasonable levels, perhaps they should consider ceasing production?"

CASH researcher Carrie Bolt said the fact that popular family meal choices, such as
burgers and beans, could combine two high-salt products, caused "even more cause for concern".

The campaign group said the study showed that many parents are confused about which foods contain salt, which is likely to further fuel the debate about food labelling in the UK. The Government made the objective of finding a single, effective front-of-pack nutritional labelling system a priority of its anti-obesity strategy unveiled last week.

CASH nutritionist Jo Butten said parents "are still confused by labelling that does not clearly state the salt content for a realistic portion and they do not expect sweet foods such as cakes, muffins, puddings and breakfast cereals to contain high levels of salt". Butten added: "We want to see clear front-of-pack labelling, including information on how much of a child's daily limit the food supplies, on all foods eaten by children."

This call was supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Commenting on the research, Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the BHF, said: "This must be a red light moment for food manufacturers, let's get colour-coded labels on food packs now. We know that high salt intake is linked to raised blood pressure and is a major risk factor for heart disease - the UK's biggest killer.

"This research shows alarming levels of salt hidden in some foods. Shoppers' problems are compounded by confusing food labelling that can make it difficult to quickly choose lower salt options for their families at the supermarket. We know that traffic light labelling is key to making food choices easier for shoppers. It would allow busy parents to tell at a glance whether food they select is low, medium or high in salt and help them make healthier food choices."