Sweet and salty chicken: UK lobby group calls for warnings on salt-laden ready meals


13 Mar 2018 --- UK lobby group Action on Salt is demanding health warnings on Chinese takeaways, and ready meals after a new survey reveals their “staggeringly high” salt levels. With some of the meals containing “as much salt as five Big Macs,” the group is calling on Public Health England (PHE) to “create a level playing field”: getting tougher on setting salt targets, making front of pack labeling mandatory and putting warning labels on restaurant menus. 

“Our data shows that food can be easily reformulated with lower levels of salt, so why haven’t all companies acted responsibly?" asks Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at Action on Salt.  

"The lack of front-of-pack color-coded labeling on branded products makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to make healthier choices and that is simply unacceptable,” she adds.

The UK could follow the example of other countries, “In Chile all supermarket products must display a black and white octagonal warning sign on front of pack if salt levels are above 400mg sodium (1g of salt) in solid foods (per 100g) and above 100mg sodium (0.25g of salt) in liquid foods (per 100ml). This highlights at a glance that the product is high in salt and makes it easier for the public to find ones with less, and could be an option for the government to consider,” Mhariri Brown, a nutritionist at Action on Salt, tells NutritionInsight.

Click to Enlarge
Excerpt of ready meals analysis from 
Action on Salt survey.

According to the survey of Chinese takeaway meals purchased from restaurants in London’s famous Chinatown, 97 percent contained 2g of salt or more per dish. Over half, 58 percent, provided more than 3g of salt per dish. This is half of an adult’s maximum recommended daily intake in one portion alone. Combining side dishes would consequently provide far more salt than the recommended daily limit for the whole day – 6g per day.

Regarding supermarket meals, Action on Salt “named and shamed” a range of large UK supermarkets and suppliers. 

It found that of the 141 ready meals surveyed, nearly half, 43 percent, were high in salt (containing over 1.5g per 100g or 1.8g per portion). These ready meals would receive a red label on the front of pack.

NutritionInsight has reached out to the named manufactures, including Tesco, Marks and Spencer, and Iceland.

Speaking on the role of the manufacturer, the group told NutritionInsight: “They must take action and adhere to Public Health England’s existing salt targets for 2017, and continually look at ways they can reformulate their products to lower not only salt but sugars and saturated fat too and give the public a much wider range of healthy choices.”

“The UK once led the world in salt reduction, with the food industry adhering to voluntary salt reduction targets and setting an example for manufacturers worldwide. Manufacturers should also use color-coded front of pack nutrition labeling across their full range of products, and give the public the tools they need to make healthier choices.”

The group describes the current sodium situation as scandalous, saying that there has been no progress report on whether or not the last set of targets (due to be met by the end of 2017) have been reached, and nor are there vocal plans to set new targets. The group vocalized criticism last year, among concerns that the 2017 sodium reduction targets were not being met.

An Innova Market Insights analysis of low sodium claims in Europe (2011-2015), strongly indicated that the UK leads for low sodium claims, accounting for 29 percent of all new product launches tracked with these claims in Europe. Among the top 3 are the Netherlands and France with respectively 11.1 percent and 15.1 percent share of product launches tracked with a low sodium claim. Other countries each account for less than 5 percent of the low sodium claimed new product launches tracked in 2011-2015. It must be noted that most sodium reduction has been done by stealth reformulation, with no strong product claims having been made.

By Laxmi Haigh

Related Articles

Nutrition & Health News

Sunshine vitamin: Kellogg’s ups vitamin D in cereals to 50 percent of daily need

22 Mar 2018 --- Kellogg’s has doubled the amount of vitamin D in many of its cereals to help tackle the chronic low levels of this essential vitamin in UK diets. The company’s cereals are to contain 50 percent of people’s daily vitamin D needs per bowl, the highest fortification level across the cereal category. Kellogg’s will roll out the cereals with 50 percent NRV vitamin D fortification across other European and Middle East markets simultaneously on the same brands as sold in the UK and Ireland, a spokesperson for the company tells NutritionInsight.  

Nutrition & Health News

Healthy indulgence: Guilt-free frozen desserts on the rise

21 Mar 2018 --- Recent innovations in ingredients and processing techniques have deemed the phrase “Healthy indulgence” as far from oxymoronic. Consumers are seeking out indulgence, without the “guilt,” and a host of manufacturers have responded to provide indulgence with added health benefits. Lighter choice options have flooded the market, from reduced sugar content to lighter alcohol options and smaller portion sizes. Innova Market Insights data demonstrate that more than twice as many bakery launches featuring a “thin” and snacks featuring a “light(ly)” claim were reported in 2016 when compared to 2012. 

Nutrition & Health News

Not so tasty: How obesity dulls the sense of taste, prompting overeating

21 Mar 2018 --- A new study in PLOS Biology by researchers at Cornell University has shown that inflammation, driven by obesity, can reduce the number of taste buds on the tongues of mice. According to the researchers, the data suggests that gross adiposity stemming from chronic exposure to a high-fat diet is associated with an inflammatory response causing a disruption in the balancing mechanisms of taste bud maintenance and renewal. The reduction of taste buds can cause further overeating. 

Regulatory News

Health claim victory: EFSA confirms physical performance benefits of carbohydrate solutions

14 Mar 2018 --- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a scientific assessment confirming the beneficial health effects of glycemic carbohydrates on the improvement of physical performance during high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise. As a result, sports nutrition companies will be able to include on-pack claims regarding the performance boosting capacity of products containing carbohydrate solutions (CHO). 

Nutrition & Health News

Food labeling: Diabetics urge companies to use the same system, UK survey shows

09 Mar 2018 --- Around three-quarters of people with diabetes believe that a universal food labeling system on the front of food products would make it easier for them to make healthier choices. This is according to a Diabetes UK survey conducted among 7,406 people with diabetes about what would help them manage their condition. 

More Articles
URL : http://www.nutritioninsight.com:80/news/sweet-and-salty-chicken-uk-lobby-group-calls-for-warnings-on-salt-laden-ready-meals.html