High-priced rock and sea salts promoted as healthier choices risk misleading consumers about their benefits, our report has found.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says gourmet salts can claim to contain higher levels of essential minerals such as iron and calcium. “But all salt products on shop shelves are essentially the same — nearly 100% sodium chloride,” she says.

We found 3 companies — Lotus Foods, Mrs Rogers, and The Healthy Salt Company — promoted some of their salts as containing iron, calcium or magnesium even though these minerals are only present in trace amounts.

“Food manufacturers are well aware shoppers want to buy healthy foods. Consumers may decide to buy a gourmet salt over a cheaper table variety after seeing these claims about mineral content. But they’ll be paying 5 to 50 times the price,” Ms Chetwin says.

The product claims may also tempt consumers to add extra salt to their food to try to up their iron, calcium or magnesium intake.

“But instead of getting any health benefit, they may be exceeding their daily salt limit and putting their health at risk. The adverse health effects of a high-salt diet are well-known,” she says.

We believe the claims also fall foul of the labelling rules in the Food Standards Code.

To claim a product is a source of a specific mineral, such as iron or calcium, it must provide 10% of the code’s adult recommended daily intake (RDI). Products promoted by Lotus Foods, Mrs Rogers and The Healthy Salt Company did not meet this requirement.

We’ve raised concerns about the product claims with the Ministry for Primary Industries, which enforces the code.

More information and the taste test video are available in our full report.