Several brands of bread available in the supermarket were found to contain salt levels hazardous to health, reports the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash).
A study surveyed 138 loaves and found 50 of them contained more salt than the Food Standards Agency's guideline maximum level. They found that one in three brands contained salt levels above the Government's max of 1.1g per 100g.
It was found that some brands were so salty that nine slices contained nearly 6g, which is the total daily-recommended intake for an adult. Excessive salt consumption can result in increased blood pressure and heart attack.
Prof Graham MacGregor, the chairman of Cash and a professor of cardiovascular medicine, said: 'Bread is the largest source of salt in the UK diet. If the salt content of all the bread on sale in the UK was that of the lowest levels found in this survey, we could cut the average population daily intake by around 1g.
'Research has shown that a population cut of 1g of salt per day would equate to 7,000 lives saved each year from strokes and heart attacks due to the drop in blood pressure that would occur.'
The highest level was found in Morrison's- The Best Farmhouse Malted Bread, which had a level of 1.5g per 100g or 0.7g per slice. The second highest salt reading was found in several Asda loaves.
Jo Butten, a spokesman for Cash, said: 'The differences in salt content between these breads may appear unimportant but we eat so much bread as a nation that they can add up to major differences in the amount of salt we eat.'
In reply, the baking industry said that salt levels had fallen considerably since 2005.
Gordon Polson, the director of the Federation of Bakers, assured that the bakers had agreed to lessen salt levels further by 2010. Asda said it would meet the FSA's targets for salt in less than 12 months.
'Although our members are happy to be working with the FSA on this issue, the reduction of salt in bread thus far has been immensely challenging as salt plays such a critical role in dough formation,' he said.
'Any change that may diminish the flavour would be counterproductive to the objective of improving diets as it is acknowledged that bread plays an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.'