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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Vegetarian meals 'lack nutrients'
Image of ready meals
Vegetarian ready meals tested were low in protein and iron
Vegetarians who rely on ready meals may not be getting enough protein or iron, say trading standards officers.

At the start of National Vegetarian Week, Kent Trading Standards said 48 samples of ready meals it tested recently were low in protein and iron.

"If vegetarians are using ready meals as their main meal, they may be lacking these nutrients," said food trading standards boss for Kent, Sue Harvey.

The officers tested meals made by nine national food retailers.

Supplement diet

They included pasta dishes, hotpots, cauliflower cheeses, sausage-based meals and stroganoffs.

The average protein content was 4.68%, about half that of meat or fish-based meals.

A typical meal provided 5g-20g protein, against the recommended intake of 55.5g per day for adult men and 45.5g per day for adult women.

The iron content of most meals was less than 1mg/100g against the recommended 8.7mg per day for adult men and 14.8mg per day for adult women.

"Iron is not normally declared on nutrition panels but consumers should check the labelling for the protein content and, if necessary, supplement their diet with other protein sources," she said.

These included pulses such as lentils and beans, nuts, eggs, soya products, dairy products and dried fruit.

The Vegetarian Society, which is promoting National Vegetarian Week, says that vegetarians need not go short of nutrients if they follow a well-balanced, low-fat, high-fibre diet.

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