CASH Comment BMJ Chef study

Professor Graham MaGregor, Chairman of CASH says:

“We are not surprised to see that chef’s recipes are unhealthier than supermarket ready meals.  Whereas supermarkets have been working hard to gradually reduce salt in their products for years, the chefs we look up to have dug their heels in when it comes to making their food healthier.   

“We feel this interesting research demonstrates the tip of the iceberg, as added salt (‘seasoning’ to chefs!) was not measured in the chef’s meals but was measured in the supermarket meals.  Added salt can make up over three-quarters of salt in chef’s recipes.  We would be interested to see this research conducted more comprehensively, particularly looking at meals eaten in celebrity chef restaurants, TV programmes, and to include the vast amounts of salt we are encouraged to add during cooking under the name of ‘seasoning’.  

“We do not believe that chefs really understand the importance of reducing salt in the diet; salt puts up blood pressure leading to strokes and heart attacks.  As most people look to chefs for guidance when cooking at home, if we could get the chefs on board with salt reduction, we would be one step closer to improving the nation’s health. “

The research, in summary:  100 main meal recipes from five bestselling cookery books by UK television chefs and 100 own brand ready meals from the three leading UK supermarkets were analysed for their nutritional content.  Salt used for ‘seasoning’ was not assessed in the chef’s meals, but was measured in the supermarket meals. The research found that neither recipes created by television chefs nor ready meals sold by three of the leading UK supermarkets complied with WHO recommendations. The recipes were less healthy than ready meals, containing significantly more energy, protein, fat, and saturated fat, and less fibre, but less salt, per portion than the ready meals. 

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