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Action on Salt

Restaurant Report

Click here for full report? [PDF 1,661KB]

Update - March 2014

Carluccio's have been in touch to inform us that they have been busy working on their menu and as a result have significantly reduced the salt content in their dishes. Carluccio's have removed some dishes which were reported as excessively salty e.g. Lentiche Cotechino (5.5g), and reworked others so e.g. Spaghetti Vongole reduced from 8g to 1.3g and Linguine Frutti Di Mare, reduced from 4.7g to 2.3g.

Carluccio's have also switcched from salted to unsalted butter in cooking, and have stopped garnishing with sea salt. It is reported that the vast majority of their dishes now fall within the pledge targets. This is great news for Carluccio's and we hope that other restaurants follow suit and provide lower salt dishes for their customers.

The Department of Health have recently published new salt reduction targets for industry and the out of home sector. We hope to see all retailers, manufacturers and out of home caterers signing up! 

Update – June 2013

Since the release of our report, a number of restaurants have gotten in touch with us to update us on their work in salt reduction. We applaud the work they are doing and encourage further reductions to be made:

Carluccio’s reacted positively to our report and decided to re-analyse three of their highest salt dishes. They found values for 2 dishes to be lower than ours (Spaghetti Alle Vongole 1.9g and Gnocchi Gorgonzola 5.13g) but their third dish -  Coteccino and Lentil Stew - remained high and has since been removed from their menu. Carluccio’s are now working hard on their Autumn menu to ensure their dishes are as healthy as possible. Well done Carluccio’s!

Jamie’s Italian restaurant chains have become the first restaurant to publicly commit to reducing salt in their dishes, by signing up to the Department of Health’s Salt Catering Pledge (F5c. Procurement). CASH applaud all the work that Jamie Oliver and his team of nutritionists are doing and we are now working together to get salt reduction down further.

We will be updating the report soon to reflect this information.


Executive Summary

The Department of Health estimates that reducing salt intakes by just 1g - a pinch of salt - would avoid 4,147 premature deaths and save the NHS £288 million every year . Reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure in just 4 weeks, which in turn reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke . The maximum recommended salt target is 6g of salt per person per day but most people in the UK exceed this and the average intake is currently around 8g per day.

Food consumed out of home makes a significant contribution to our daily diets with an estimated 1 in 6 meals being eaten out of the home. It is also often saltier than similar foods sold at retail . Furthermore, celebrity chefs exert great influence on people’s food habits through their books, programmes and endorsements. Indeed a recent study has shown that ready meals are healthier than celebrity chef meals .   Therefore, chefs and the catering sector have a huge role to play in helping consumer’s to reduce their salt intake to meet the 6g a day population target.

We will be showing people how to take control of the salt in their own food preparation, by simply using less salty and tastier ingredients, as well as adding less salt during cooking and at the table. However, it is harder to eat less salt when eating food prepared by other people.  We aim to raise awareness among chefs and catering staff of the importance for health of reducing the salt in foods, and promote behaviour changes through kitchen practices and ingredient selection.

Our Assessment

Action taken by the catering sector is key to reducing salt in food eaten out of the home. In our research we looked at 36 well known chef, chain, café and fast food restaurants to assess the steps they have taken to reduce salt. Each business was measured against 3 key categories:

1. Commitment to action
2. Helping consumers make healthy choices
3. Salt content of their food

We found although some good examples exist, on the whole consumers are being let down by the inconsistent approach to reducing salt, with some companies making progress in one or two areas, but less in others.  There are no ‘gold standard’ companies, with progress needed across the board.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal leads the way in the celebrity restaurants for having meals that were the lowest in salt. Frankie’s, in contrast, had the highest levels of salt amongst the chef restaurants.

Among the restaurant chains, J D Wetherspoons stood out for demonstrating strong will by committing to the FSA, signing up to the Salt Reduction Pledge and the second Salt Catering Pledge, however many of their meals were still high in salt. In contrast, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Carluccio’s have not yet shown any public commitment to reduce salt, or to help their customers make informed healthy choices by providing labelling.

Café chains have generally made more progress than restaurant chains; all provide nutritional labelling online allowing customers to find out what is in their food, just not always at the point of purchase.  Some provided nutritional information in store and none of them provided salt shakers on the tables. Costa stands out for having made significant changes in this area.

Among the catering companies, the pub chain Michell & Butlers and Olive Catering lead the way for signing up to the Salt Reduction Pledge and sections of the Salt Catering Pledge.  In contrast, Brakes and 3663 have still got further to go.


Consensus Action on Salt and Health recommends the following list of actions for the catering sector and chef restaurants:

Priority actions for the catering sector Priority actions for chefs and chef restaurants
• Commit to the Responsibility Deal Salt Reduction and Salt Catering Pledge
• Provide nutritional labelling
• Remove salt shakers from tables
• Provide low salt soy sauce at the table instead of standard soy sauce
• Commit to the Chef Pledge
• Commit to the Responsibility Deal Salt Reduction and Salt Catering Pledge
• Provide nutritional labelling
• Remove salt shakers from tables

Our research has shown that more than half of people find restaurant meals too salty, and that two thirds think chefs should add less salt when they cook the meal.  Our assessment looked at the leading companies in the catering sector, but it is very important that action is taken across the sector, including the many smaller restaurants and takeaway outlets. Overall, the pace of salt reduction needs to be increased dramatically.

Produced with the kind support of the British Heart Foundation
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