Retailer's 'healthy' meals under scrutiny

10th June 2003

So-called ‘healthy’ ready meals have been exposed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Today the FSA publishes its survey on retailer’s ready meals.* They reveal that many standard and ‘healthy’ ready meals have unhealthy contents of salt.

Ready meals labelled in the ‘healthy eating range’ were often found to be no healthier than non- labelled meals in regards to their salt contents according to the FSA. A number of ‘healthy’ ready meals were found to have more than half a days target intake for adults.**

Retailers need to be more responsible in how they market these products, as they should not be allowed to call ready meals 'healthy' with such high levels of salt, this is very misleading.

Independent advisors to the government SACN***, are advocating an intake of less than 6 g per day for adults. A mere 3g reduction in salt intake for the average adult would lead to a 14% reduction in stroke and a 10% reduction in CHD. This would save 20,700 stroke and heart attack deaths a year in the UK.

Major retailers selling healthy eating ranges include Safeway (‘Eat smart’), Asda (‘Good For You’), Waitrose (‘Perfectly Balanced’), Tesco (‘Healthy Eating’) and Sainsbury’s (‘Be Good To Yourself’). All of which claim to have ‘controlled’ for salt.**** But many endorsed products do not meet strict enough criteria to warrant being called ‘healthy’ according to Health Experts at CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health).

"We recognise the steps they have already taken to reduce salt but it is clearly not enough, they need to continue making further reductions in order to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths each year from heart attacks and strokes." advocates Penelope Gilbert, Nutritionist from CASH.

Penelope Gilbert says that "The 6g maximum intake target for salt will not be achieved unless current salt levels in many manufactured food products are halved."
CASH calls on all retailers to set stricter limits on the salt content of ready meals by setting guidelines of a maximum of 1.5g of salt per serving and then reducing this to less than 1g within the next 3 years.


Notes to editors
*The FSA survey can be found on their website
** Taken from the FSA survey on ready meals


ProductSalt per portion (g)% of 6g daily recommendation
Asda Good For You Lasagne3.660%
Asda Good For Your Chicken Korma and Rice3.355%
Sainsbury's Be Good to Yourself Lasagne2.846.7%
Waitrose Perfectly Balanced Lasagne2.744.2%


If a food item is going to make a nutritional claim as far as salt is concerned, then the following legal rules apply:
Salt free: equal or less than 5mg sodium per 100g
Low salt: equal or less than 40mg of sodium per 100g
Salt reduced: at least 25% less salt than the standard version
Less salt: it must stipulate the amount in percent that it is reduced by compared to the standard version.
No added salt: no added salt or sodium will have been added to the food or any of its ingredients.
*** SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition)
**** Levels set by retailers