Should Chinese and Indian meals carry health warnings?
Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has worked with Trading Standards officials in Milton Keynes and Surrey to uncover the very high salt content of popular take-away foods, to coincide with Salt Awareness Week (29th January – 4th February 2006).
The survey of 50 samples of Chicken Tikka Massala with Pilau Rice and 11 samples of Chinese chicken dishes with fried rice reveals that many contain more than a whole day’s salt limit in a single meal.
Almost two thirds (64%) of the Chinese meals tested contained more than 6g of salt per serving, which is the maximum recommended intake for the whole day. Three of them contained more than 10g of salt per serving and the worst offender was a meal of Cashew Nut Chicken with Yellow Bean sauce and Special Fried Rice, which contained a massive 15.75g, over two and a half times the maximum recommended daily limit.
Over half (52%) of the Indian meal samples contained more than 4g of salt, with one sample containing 7.11g of salt.
“The level of salt in these meals is shocking, and they really should carry some sort of health warning,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George’s Hospital in London. “Take-aways like these are very popular, but they have no labelling so there is no way that people can tell how much salt they contain.
“Previous research has shown that eating a Chinese take-away can result in extreme thirst, headaches, and feeling bloating, all of which are caused by the excessive amounts of salt in the food, not the monosodium glutamate(1).
“If we are to get the UK’s average salt intake down to below 6g a day for adults - and thereby prevent 35,000 deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks - we have to warn people to avoid these highly salty meals.
“Eating too much salt pushes up blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart attacks,” continues Professor MacGregor. “And high salt diets are also implicated in stomach cancer. Much has been done by the food industry over the past few years to reduce the salt they add to our food. I’d like to see more projects of the sort that Trading Standards have already started, to encourage caterers and take-away restaurants to reformulate their recipes to contain far less salt.”
Diane Abbott MP, Caroline Flint, Minister for Public Health and Dame Deirdre Hutton, Chair of the Food Standards Agency will join Professor Graham MacGregor at a meeting on Wednesday 1st February at the House of Commons to highlight the importance of reducing the amount of salt we eat.
Salt Awareness Week runs from January 29th to February 4th. Health professionals, schools, pharmacists, caterers and nutritionists around the country have requested over 600 Salt Awareness Packs. These will be used to support the many local Salt Awareness Events that will take place during the Week.