CHEESE is unnecessarily loaded with salt, campaigners have warned.

Researchers have found halloumi and imported blue cheese have the highest amount of salt while cottage cheese has the lowest. They also found large variations in salt content among the same types of cheese. Some types of cheddar - the most popular choice among British consumers - had much higher levels of salt than others, with supermarket own-brands having lower levels than branded counterparts.

Study co-author Dr Kawther Hashem, from Queen Mary University of London, who is also nutritionist for the campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), said: "These big brands need to stop dragging their heels and catch up with the supermarkets. Children's cheeses are often marketed as 'healthy', yet can contain at least the equivalent of 75 per cent seawater per 100g on average - these cheeses should only be given to children occasionally, or not at all."

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The new study, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined 612 cheeses available across the UK in 2012.

Cash chairman Professor Graham MacGregor added: "Reducing salt is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from stokes, heart attacks and heart failure."