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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Parents warned over ready meals salt
Children eating
There are concerns about children's salt intake
Parents are being warned that many ready meals aimed at children contain levels of salt that would put adults' health at risk

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that dishes including macaroni cheese, shepherd's pie and lasagne were among those with high levels of salt.

It also found that some meals in 'healthy options' ranges offered by supermarkets contained more than half a whole day's recommended intake of salt.

The FSA, which is a government agency, is now warning the food industry to stop misleading consumers.

High salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

'Incomplete' information

Sir John Krebs, chair of the FSA, said: "Ready meals are increasingly popular for many consumers, and can be a fast and easy way for parents to feed the family.

The food industry has a responsibility to be honest with consumers and we will be checking again next year to see what progress they have made
Sir John Krebs

"But our survey shows that many have very high levels of salt in them, leaving little room for the salt we take in from other foods such as bread and cereals."

The FSA's survey of 69 ready meals found that almost half contained more than 40% of the daily adult salt target of six grams.

Asda was found to have the most products that contained more than 40% of the recommended daily salt intake for adults.

Safeway had two of the lowest salt products - lasagne and chicken korma and rice from their 'Eat Smart' range. But overall, Tesco's ready meals contained the least salt.

Findus and Uncle Ben's were both criticised for not including complete nutritional information on their labels - so the survey and consumers could not compare their salt levels to other dishes.

Daily target

Although healthy eating ready meals contained less salt than the standard versions, the differences were small in many cases.

One meal, Asda's 'Good For You' lasagne, contained 60% of an adult's recommended daily intake.

The FSA warned that some dishes designed for seven to 10 year olds, were found to contain more than 40% of the daily target intake of five grams.

Among them were three of the Asda 'More For Kids' range.

Customers 'misled'

Mr Krebs called for salt levels in ready meals to be reduced.

He added: "It isn't acceptable for ready meals loaded with salt to be called 'healthy' options. They are far from it and mislead consumers.

"The food industry has a responsibility to be honest with consumers and we will be checking again next year to see what progress they have made."

The British are the biggest consumers of ready meals in Europe, with about 1.9 billion spent on them each year - double the amount spent by the French and six times more than the Spanish.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The Food Agency says it's working to reduce salt in its products"

Ready meals catch on
21 Feb 03  |  UK
Children reared on ready meals
22 Apr 03  |  Wales
Health fears over hidden salt
30 Jan 01  |  Health


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