Consumers who rely on supermarket economy-range foods could be short-changed on their health, according to in-store spotchecks by the National Consumer Council (NCC).

The NCC's 2006 report, found fewer healthy food promotions in supermarkets where low income consumers are likely to shop, and that most supermarket economy lines contained significantly more salt and slightly more fat and sugar than standard own-brand lines.

The council said that an economy-line breakfast of two slices of toast with spread, two sausages, baked beans and tomato ketchup could contain as much as two-thirds of the recommended daily salt intake for an adult.

The Food and Drink Federation, however, has defended the food industry's efforts to cut down salt levels.

Its communications director Julian Hunt said: "It's been well documented how the food industry - retailers and manufacturers alike -  have worked closely with the Food Standards Agency and made enormous cuts in salt in foods, with similar action taken on delivering reduced sugar and fat options for consumers.

"It's disappointing to see industry continue to be painted as the villain, when consumers can see for themselves how the foods they buy and the labels on them are improving."

The NCC said that Morrisons was the worst offender, followed by Somerfield, with the least salty Tesco breakfast still having more than half the recommended daily amount for an adult.

NCC chair Lord Larry Whitty said: "Consumers who rely heavily on economy ranges are clearly being short-changed on health. Supermarkets' poor performance on economy lines is a backward step since last year. At least 26m of us are eating too much salt - most of it hidden in the food we buy - and supermarkets should play a bigger part in tackling the problem.

"Supermarkets have made progress on reducing salt in their standard food lines, so there's no good reason why they can't do the same with economy lines. Supermarkets should behave more responsibly. Budget-conscious shoppers must not be shut out from eating healthily."

NCC's report also rated the supermarkets for their efforts on encouraging healthy eating, including the salt content of own-brand lines, price promotions, the prevalence of snacks at checkouts, labelling and the information and advice available to customers.

This year's overall top-rated supermarket was Sainsbury's - up from fourth place last year.

Waitrose and Tesco were in joint second place with Marks & Spencer at number four and last year's number one, the Co-op, at joint fifth place with Asda. Somerfield and Morrisons were at the bottom of the NCC table - in seventh and eighth place - for the third year running.

NCC said that the report showed that while supermarkets are taking positive strides in providing consumers with colour-coded front-of-pack labelling and good nutritional information, they still have a long way to go.

It added that some supermarkets rely too heavily on their websites and magazines to give advice and information to their customers.