The high salt content of coffee shop cakes has been highlighted in the latest research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), but it admitted that some products had seen big cuts in salt levels.

Despite the high level of salt in some products, CASH said that “notable improvements” had been made in the salt content of coffee shop treats since its report in 2008.

“For instance, the average salt content of muffins and pastries has been reduced by a quarter (a 0.92g to 0.68g reduction for muffins and 0.79g to 0.59g for pastries),” revealed the research.

The campaigning group surveyed 159 “bakery treats” and 28 popular hot beverages from six major high-street coffee outlets: Caffè Nero, Pret A Manger, EAT, Starbucks, Costa and McDonald’s. The bakery items in the survey included: pastries, croissants, traybakes, biscuits, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, cheese cakes, tarts and pies.

The results revealed that, in some instances, a hot drink and a piece of cake could contain nearly as much salt as five packets of crisps (a 34.5g bag of Walker’s Ready Salted Crisps), and amount to more than a third of your maximum recommended daily salt intake.

Muffins were found to contain, on average, double the amount of salt found in cupcakes, with 85% containing more than a packet of crisps, found CASH.

The saltiest bakery products were found to be: Caffè Nero’s Luxury Fruit Scone (2.1g of salt per portion); McDonald’s Low Fat Blueberry Muffin (1.7g); EAT’s Chocolate and Muesli Cookies (1.575g salt each); and a Pret A Manger Choc Bar (1.582g).

“Going out for a coffee and a muffin is a popular calorie-laden treat, but many people don’t realise sweet foods can also contain unnecessary salt,” commented Katharine Jenner, CASH campaign manager.

Topping the table with the lowest salt content were: Starbucks’ Dolcetto al Cacao (0.03g salt per portion); Costa’s Mini Muffin Choc (0.048g); Starbucks’ Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Fairtrade (0.05g) and Belgian Chocolate Brownie Gluten-free Fairtrade (0.07g); and a Maple Pecan Plait from EAT (0.07g).

The report also suggested that the lack of nutritional information on pack and in-store meant it was difficult for consumers to make healthier choices.