Salt in popular restaurant meals twice the amount a child should have in a day

New research published on 2 February 2009 by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) shows that many popular meals eaten in UK high-street restaurants can contain large amounts of salt, in some cases more than twice the daily maximum limit for an adult in a single meal.

CASH worked with Trading Standards officers around the country to measure the salt content of 96 popular menu items from 16 high street restaurant chains.  Samples were purchased from the restaurants and analysed for their salt content by the Public Analyst.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of the main course dishes contained 3g of salt or more, the maximum daily limit for a six year-old and half the adult daily limit, and seven of these contained 6g of salt or more, the maximum daily limit for an adult.  The saltiest dishes were not confined to one or two restaurants – six out of the sixteen (over one third, 38%) restaurants surveyed served a popular main course dish containing 6g of salt or more.

The saltiest main course surveyed was Old Orleans Chicken Fajitas, with 8.8g of salt per serving.  Old Orleans also serves Wings and Ribs with 7.6g of salt per portion.  A Pizza Express American Hot Pizza contains 7.5g of salt per portion and a Wagamama Ramen contains 7.2g of salt per serving.  By comparison, a popular main meal at Beefeater of Sirloin Steak, grilled tomato, flat mushroom and chips contains only 0.4g of salt.

American Hot Pizza

American Hot Pizza

Starters and side dishes were also surveyed, with Old Orleans Chicken Wings with spicy BBQ sauce and blue cheese dressing containing almost 5g of salt per portion. Strada Aglio Garlic Bread contains 3.3g of salt per portion, over half the adult recommended daily limit.

Restaurant

Dish

Salt per Portion (g)

Old Orleans

Chicken Fajitas

8.84

Old Orleans

Wings and Ribs (with fries)

7.59

Pizza Express

American Hot Classic Pizza

7.5

Wagamamas

Wagamama ramen

7.2

Zizzi

Pizza Sofia

6.7

ASK

Fiesta Di Carne Pizza

6.55

Frankie and Benny’s

Chicken Penne Romana

6.0

 

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George’s Hospital in London said:

“Keeping our salt consumption below the recommended maximum levels is vital.  If we are to reduce the numbers of people needlessly dying from heart attacks and strokes, then we all need to keep a check on our salt intake.  The food industry in this country is leading the world in reducing the amount of salt it adds to the foods we buy in shops and supermarkets, and labelling those foods clearly so that we can make informed decisions about the products we buy.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for foods we eat in restaurants.  It simply beggars belief that almost five years after the Food Standards Agency launched its salt reduction programme, and with all the publicity there has been about the 6g a day target, some high street restaurants have done nothing to reduce the amount of salt they add to their meals.  If they had even considered this issue then we wouldn’t be finding meals containing more than a day’s salt limit in a single course.  By comparison, ready meals sold in supermarkets have had their salt content reduced considerably over the last few years, and when we last surveyed them, we found only a very few with salt contents over 3g salt per serving.”

Raymond Blanc, Chef Patron of the Manoir Au Quat’ Saisons said,

“I believe that good food does not need more than the very lightest of seasoning – there is no reason for good chefs to mask the flavour of their ingredients by adding too much salt. Remember herby, sour, bitter and acid are also wonderful catalysts of flavour.”

For information about a two-day course in Somerset, UK, tailored to equip caterers, and those involved in encouraging healthier catering practices, with information and practical tools to achieve healthier eating in the population, please click here.

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