Chinese ready meals 'should carry salt health warnings'

Robin Mannering

A significant proportion of Chinese ready meals sold in supermarkets should carry a health warning on the packaging, with some lines containing more than two-thirds of an adult’s maximum recommended daily salt intake, according to Action on Salt research.

The campaign group is calling on Public Health England to take immediate action on setting new salt targets and making front-of-pack labelling mandatory.

Of the 141 ready meals surveyed, nearly half (43%) were high in salt (containing over 1.5g/100g or 1.8g per portion) and would receive a red label on the front of pack under government guidance.

Three Co-op own label lines should carry a red label for salt content, including Co-op Chicken Chow Mein 450g (3.42g per portion), Co-op Beef & Blackbean Sauce with Egg Rice 450g (2.86g per portion) and Co-op Blackbean Pulled Beef & Noodle Meal Pot 260g (1.9g per portion).

The saltiest Chinese dish was Iceland’s Slimming World Chinese Style Banquet Rice, with 4.40g salt per 550g pack – more salt than two store-bought Pizza Express Margherita Pizzas, according to the survey.

Next in line was Marks & Spencer Crispy Sweet and Sour Chicken Banquet with 4.13g salt per 500g pack, providing over two-thirds (69%) of an adult’s maximum daily intake – equivalent in salt content to more than three McDonald’s hamburgers.

Action on Salt campaign manager Sonia Pombo said: “Our data shows that food can be easily reformulated with lower levels of salt, so why haven’t all companies acted responsibly?

“The lack of front-of-pack colour coded labelling on branded products makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to make healthier choices and that is simply unacceptable. This week, as part of Salt Awareness Week, we are asking everyone, including the food industry, to think first and use less salt.”

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