Salt levels in picnic foods dangerously high, health group warns


Action on Salt calls for compulsory, front-of-pack, nutritional labelling

One in four savoury picnic foods contain dangerously high levels of salt and almost half are worryingly high in saturated fat, a health group has warned.

Action on Salt found that a typical picnic basket could contain more than 5g of salt, almost the recommended daily limit for an adult, which is 6g a day. Excessive salt consumption has been blamed for thousands of cases of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Among the worst offenders in the 555 picnic foods analysed by the group were Aldi’s specially selected hand-stuffed Halkidiki Olives, with 5g of salt per 100g, double the salt concentration of seawater, and Ginsters Cornish pasties, with 2.99g a portion, equivalent to seven portions of salted peanuts.

Almost one in three products had no colour-coded front-of-pack labelling and 40% of those were high in salt so would qualify for a red label, the group found.
Lambasting the efforts of the government and its public health body, Action on Salt said its findings demonstrate the need for immediate, compulsory, front-of-pack, nutritional labelling on all picnic savouries.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and chair of Action on Salt, said: “Due to inaction by the Department of Health and Social Care, and Public Health England (PHE), in enforcing the 2017 salt reduction targets, the public are still eating more salt than recommended, which is leading to thousands dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease. Reducing salt is one of the most cost-effective measures to protect health.”

Action on Salt, which is based at QMUL, found that half of products were higher in salt than their average salt targets and 17% had more salt than their maximum target. In 2014, PHE issued issued guideline salt targets for more than 80 categories of food, with the aim that they be met by 2017.

The pressure group said its research showed reformulation was possible, given significant variations within product categories. For example, Gosh! Mediterranean falafel with chickpea and parsley had 3.5 times more salt per 100g than Cauldron Middle Eastern falafels. A Ginsters large sausage roll had twice as much salt per 100g than Aldi Everyday Essentials eight sausage rolls.

When it came to saturated fat, Morrisons cheese and onion slices contained 17.7g per portion, almost a woman’s recommended daily limit of saturated fat. Asda Extra Special maple-cured smoked bacon quiche Lorraine weighed in at 11g of saturated fat per 100g and at 14g per portion – almost as much as in five McDonald’s hamburgers.

Action in Salt said that while vegetarian products are often lower in saturated fat, in many cases their “health halo” is concealing lots of salt.
MacGregor said it was not good enough that there is no active salt reduction strategy.
“The time has come for the secretary of state for health to resuscitate the UK’s salt reduction programme, helping us to, once again, be world-leading rather than trailing behind,” he said.
Prof Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at PHE, said: “Voluntary action by industry on salt reduction has helped reduce the nation’s salt intake by 11%, to 8g per day but our review last December shows a mixed bag across products, with only just over half of salt reduction targets met.
“We all have a role to play in eating a healthier diet, and it is clear that, with the right leadership from industry, further salt reduction in foods is still possible”.
Both Ginsters and Aldi said their products included nutritional information so customers could make informed choices.

Source: The Guardian

Author: Haroon Siddique

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