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Action on Salt

Curries survey

29th April 2010

  • Iceland's Chicken Tikka Balti, currently advertised on TV as part of the new Iceland Balti range, contains a huge 7.2 of salt - more than the daily maximum of 6g!
  • Secret salt is hidden in popular accompaniments to a curry including side dishes, naan bread, poppadoms, chutneys/pickles and rice

For Media Coverage: South Asian Survey Media Coverage
BBC Coverage

Click here for all data - Curry Survey Data Tables [DOC 1,161KB] or South Asian Food - Full Data [DOC 565KB] (use the tabs to navigate between full data sheet and each category)


FACT: A bought curry with all the extras (Rice, Naan, Sag Aloo, Poppadom and Chutney) could provide over 20.5g of salt, the equivalent of over THREE times your maximum recommended intake of 6g a day

29.04.10. The new research from CASH surveyed 784 products in the largest survey of its kind in the UK, across supermarket shelves, independent shops and takeaway restaurants. The survey reveals very high levels of salt hidden in bought Indian & South Asian cuisine including; takeaways, ready meals, cooking sauces, chutneys, pickles and side dishes.

Curry dishes frequently top the poll as the UK’s favourite meals, but these findings highlight that the nation is blindly consuming dangerous levels of salt. As well as main curry dishes being high in salt; you can more than DOUBLE your salt intake with extras such as chutney and Naan bread. The lack of clear labelling on the packaging, combined with the spicy ingredients masking the salty flavour, makes it very hard for people to know how much salt they are eating.

Many of these ready meals contain extremely high levels of salt. For example, within Iceland’s new Balti range, currently advertised on television, the frozen Chicken Tikka Balti contains a massive 7.2g* salt per 450g pack. This is more than the daily salt maximum of 6g a day, equivalent to over a teaspoon of salt, without any rice, side dishes or chutney. 

If you do need a quick meal solution, ready meals don’t need to be totally ruled out. Similar products can vary hugely in their salt content; for instance the Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself Chicken Korma with Pilau Rice contains only 0.91g salt per portion, nearly 5 times less salt than the frozen Kan Pur Garden Chicken Korma with Pilau Rice (from Lidl) at 4.50g salt per portion.

Takeaways are thought of as a convenient option, however CASH found large variations in the salt content of the same curries from different restaurants in London’s famous curry street Brick Lane. CASH found the lowest takeaway to be a Vegetable Korma (1.37g per portion) and the highest a Chicken Tikka Masala (6.81g per portion), so a simple swap could cut your salt intake by up to 4 times in the main meal alone.

Cooking sauces were generally found to be lower in salt, for example The Co-operative’s Healthy Living Rogan Josh Cook In Sauce and Weightwatcher’s Korma, both contained just 0.5g per portion. However one Waitrose product, the Half Fat Jalfrezi Cooking Sauce, contains nearly five times more, at 2.49g per portion.

Over half (29 out of 52) of the pickles and chutneys sampled were, weight for weight, saltier than Atlantic seawater. By swapping salt laden pickles, such as a 30g spoonful of Priya’s Lime Pickle, which at 5.8g salt per 30g portion is over 7 times the salt concentration of the sea, for more healthy accompaniments such as Tesco Cucumber Mint Raita or The Cooperative’s Mango Chutney (both 0.2g salt per portion), you can help reduce salt intake by nearly 6 grams.

Naan bread and poppadoms are often consumed with these meals, the Marks and Spencer’s Garlic and Coriander Naan bread contains 3.2g salt per portion – over half your daily maximum. The highest salt poppadom (Pataks Plain mini Poppadoms) contains 1.1g salt per portion, more than two packets of crisps.

“It is the very high levels of unnecessary salt that are added to our food that puts up our blood pressure and leads to thousands of people needlessly dying of strokes, heart attacks and heart failures every year” says Professor MacGregor, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Chairman of CASH. “The shockingly high levels of salt in many of these products mean that many people in the UK are consuming huge amounts of salt when they enjoy a curry. We urge all these manufacturers and providers to reduce their salt content immediately.”

“A regular ’Curry Night’ is becoming a British institution, making these high salt levels extremely worrying” says CASH Campaign Manager Nutritionist Katharine Jenner. “This survey shows salt can be hidden behind all the spices and chilli in your curry, even in side dishes and sauces. Add to this the lack of clear labelling on packaging and in takeaway restaurants, and it makes it very hard for consumers to choose a healthy option.”

Hannah Brinsden, who carried out the research for CASH, said “The best thing you can do is make your own curry at home and just not add salt or salty spices. The British Heart Foundation has a South Asian recipe book (which can be ordered free of charge) containing a number of low salt curry recipes. Alternatively, by choosing the lower salt options from our tables, a full Indian meal can contain less than 2g salt. Visit Welcome to Consensus Action on Salt and Health for more information”

Policy manager at the British Heart Foundation, Mubeen Bhutta, said: “The level of salt in some of these curries is frankly outrageous, but it’s often tucked away behind unhelpful food labels where it’s difficult to spot. Food manufacturers should give shoppers the whole truth about what they are putting in their baskets. We believe that universal front-of pack label, including traffic light colours, the words ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ and guideline daily amounts, are key to helping people easily understand what’s in the food and drink they take to the tills.”

*NB Iceland claim the labelling on the packaging is incorrect, the figures in this press release have been changed to match correct levels of salt rather than what is stated on pack

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