Is the Cooking Salt Safe in China? Assessment of Chemical Contaminants in Cooking Salt

  • Zhengyuan Wang
  • Jingzhe Zhou
  • Xiaodong JiaEmail author


Global environmental pollution is becoming more serious, and most dietary salts come from nature. We postulated that chemical pollutants could affect the quality of salt. Forty-five different types of salt were collected from supermarkets, convenience stores, and online retailers in Shanghai, 2015. These comprised more than 90% of all cooking salts consumed in Shanghai, China. We measured and analyzed heavy metal elements, fluoride, potassium ferrocyanide, and 16 phthalate plasticizers. Lead was detected in only two types of salt at concentrations recorded of 0.047 mg/kg and 0.077 mg/kg. The concentrations of total arsenic, total mercury, cadmium, and barium were under limit of detection (LOD) in all samples. The maximum fluoride concentration of salts was 2.50 mg/kg. The median fluoride concentration of domestic salts was significantly lower than foreign-produced salts, and it was significantly higher in sea salt than in other types of salt (P < 0.05). The maximum potassium ferrocyanide concentration in 12 types of salts was 9.20 mg/kg, which was under the Chinese national standard. Just three salt types had low levels of diethylhexyl phthalate concentrations that were above the LOD, at 0.208 mg/kg, 0.375 mg/kg, and 0.380 mg/kg, respectively. All other phthalate indicators were below the LOD in all samples. The level of chemical pollutants in salt is either very low or under LOD. We believe that dietary salt products are safe at retail, and the long-term dietary exposure of cooking salts will not pose any significant health risk.


Salt Diethylhexyl phthalate Lead Fluoride Potassium ferrocyanide 



We appreciate the data on cooking salt consumption in Shanghai provided by the China National Salt Industry Group Co., LTD.

Financial Support

The current study was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (No. 81602851), Excellent Young Talents of Health System in Shanghai (No. 2017YQ043), the Fourth Three-Year Public Health Program (NO.GWIV-27.1), and Key Disciplines (No.15GWZK0801). None of the above funders played a role in the study design, data analysis or manuscript writing.

Author Contributions

Xiaodong Jia and Zhengyuan Wang designed the study, wrote the protocol, and directed its implementation. Zhengyuan Wang and Jingzhe Zhou performed the statistical analysis. Zhengyuan Wang conducted the literature review and wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Health Risk Factor Monitoring and ControlShanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and PreventionShanghaiChina

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