Analysis on popular takeaway food and ready meals has revealed harmful levels of salt, with some containing half an adult’s recommended daily allowance in one dish.
Action for Salt campaigners are now calling for compulsory salt warnings on Chinese takeaways and ready meals.
The campaign group performed analysis on dishes from six Chinese restaurants. Out of these, 97 per cent contained 2g of salt or more per dish and 58 per cent contained more than 3g of salt per dish – which is half an adult's maximum recommended daily intake. Adding in side dishes would mean people exceed the 6g per day recommended limit of salt in one meal alone.
Kidney Research UK director of communications Pete Storey said: “Research has shown high levels of salt in a person’s daily diet can have a detrimental effect on their overall health, leading to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and heart attacks.
“This is why we support Action for Salt in their calls for Public Health England (PHE) to take action and introduce compulsory labelling on all high salt, sugar and saturated fat products, so people are able to make informed choices.”
Action on Salt also examined the salt content of Chinese ready meals from popular supermarkets and found that some dishes had more than 4g of salt per pack. Of the 141 ready meals analysed, 43 per cent were deemed to be high in salt.
As well as main dishes being high in salt, rice dishes and other sides, such as spring rolls and prawn crackers, can add a significant amount of salt to a meal. For example, one takeaway egg fried rice had a shocking 4.1g salt per 350g pack - more salt than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.
When it comes to dipping in, Action on Salt suggest consumers should also think twice about sauces, with some containing excessively high levels of salt. Soy sauces were by far the saltiest – on average being over five times saltier than seawater.
The UK was once leading the world on salt reduction, which was shown to be the most cost effective public health programme. Up to 2011, the UK salt reduction programme had already prevented 18,000 strokes and heart attacks per year, 9,000 of which were fatal, with £1.5 billion a year in NHS healthcare saving costs, according to NICE.
In 2016, PHE assumed responsibility for UK salt reduction, however Action for Salt say so far there has been little action, with no progress report on whether the last set of salt targets been reached, nor any plans to set new targets. As part of its 19th Salt Awareness Week (March 12 - 18), Action on Salt is calling on PHE for immediate action.
Sonia Pombo, campaign manager at Action on Salt added: “Our data shows that food can be easily reformulated with lower levels of salt, so why haven’t all companies acted responsibly? The lack of front-of-pack colour coded labelling on branded products makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to make healthier choices and that is simply unacceptable. This week, as part of Salt Awareness Week, we are asking everyone, including the food industry, to think first and use less salt.”