The study shows major brands are at fault with Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate, for instance, saltier than seawater!
A product survey compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items - but with different amounts of salt.
The saltiest basket had 107g of salt compared to one with the same categories of foods - with just 47g.
The staggering 60g difference between the ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ baskets is equivalent to 130 bags of Walkers Ready Salted crisps.
Out of 28 food types analysed by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) only ‘bread rolls’ has so far met the government’s 2017 reduction target.
Baxters Chef Selections Cullen Skink (1.1g salt/100g) with more than one and a half times the target for soup, and Aldi The Fishmonger Piri Piri Smoked Mackerel Fillets (3.8g salt/serving) with four times more for fish-based meals, were also among the worst offenders.
Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate (0.6g salt per serving) is saltier than a bag of crisps, with 16 times more than the target for beverages.
Other culprits include Quorn 4 Southern Fried Chicken Burgers (2g/100) when the aim is to get it down to 1.25.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference West Country Farmhouse Butter with Cornish Sea Salt has 2.13g/100 - with the goal 1.68 n by the end of the year.
CASH is urging Public Health England (PHE) to immediately ensure the 2017 targets are met and that they urgently set mandatory targets for 2020, as asked for by many leading supermarkets.
Chairman Professor Graham MacGregor, of Queen Mary University of London, said: “This is a national scandal.
“The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but PHE are doing nothing to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met.”
He said NHS watchdog NICE found 1g reduction saves £1.5 billion per year, at a cost of less than half a million pounds.
The product survey was conducted using the new and updated FoodSwitch UK app and its SaltSwitch filter.
It was able to demonstrate in all 28 categories there were products with at least 30 percent less salt.
This would meet the maximum salt reduction target. There was a staggering 97 percent difference between Granola Cereals - Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Nuts & Caramel Bites (1.13g of salt/100g) and Jordans Country Crisp with Sun-Ripe Strawberries (0.03g of salt/100g).
On average, people in the UK eat about 8g of salt a day - two grams more than the recommended amount of 6g, around one teaspoon.
The survey to mark National Salt Awareness Week said reducing it to this would prevent around 14,000 deaths a year, and save the NHS a further £3billion.
Research has shown just four in ten people know a teaspoon (6g) of salt is the maximum amount you should have in a day.
Most people think ready meals, crisps and other savoury snacks and salt added to food when cooking are the biggest contributors when in fact it is bread and cereal products.
These actually contribute nearly a quarter of the salt in the UK’s diet, showing PHE are also failing to educate the public about the risks they are running in eating too much, said CASH.
Almost six in ten(58%) believe it should be the responsibility of the food industry to proactively reduce salt content in their products.
CASH campaign director Katharine Jenner said: “Salt is the forgotten killer.
“The findings from our FoodSwitch shopping basket survey are alarming and we are shocked to see many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them.
“We congratulate the other, more responsible manufacturers that have successfully achieved them, or are on track to meet them by the end of the year - which shows it is possible.
“With only nine months to go, action must be taken now.”
Nutritionist Sarah Alderton said the new and improved CASH FoodSwitch UK app will help consumers make healthier and more informed choices when shopping by showing traffic light colour labelling and recommending healthier alternatives.
Added Prof MacGregor: “PHE should seize this opportunity and ensure the 2017 targets are met, as well as setting new mandatory targets for 2020, to ensure we continue to lead the world and save the maximum number of lives.”
FoodSwitch UK allows users to scan the barcode of over 100,000 packaged food and drinks sold across major UK supermarkets using their smartphone camera.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The food industry has reduced the amount of salt found in our foods by 11% in recent years, which is encouraging progress.
“We know there is more to do. This is why we are talking to retailers, manufacturers, and the eating out of home sector on how they go further and faster to reaching the 2017 salt reduction targets.”