High ‘hidden’ salt levels in UK restaurants

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th March 2013

New research from UK health group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has found that more than half the meals served in UK restaurants are high in salt.

The results of the survey come as World Salt Awareness Week begins. World Salt Awareness Week runs from 11 March 2013 to 17 March 2013, and aims to show how everyone “can use less salt and still enjoy the great flavour of their food”.

Celebrity chef restaurants and high end street chain restaurants both came out higher than cafes and fast food chains, with an average of 3.1g salt per meal, which is half a person’s daily recommended intake of salt. CASH said the high levels were partly due to larger portion sizes in the restaurants, but that the 13 saltiest meals in the survey contained more than the recommended daily intake of salt.

The survey looked at 664 main meals from 29 popular high street and celebrity restaurants in the UK, as well as fast food and café chains. More than half of all meals surveyed had more than 2.4g of salt per portion, which, under the UK’s traffic light food labelling system, would mean the meals would be labelled in a supermarket with a red traffic light.

“It’s a national scandal that there is still so much salt in our food. Salt puts up our blood pressure, and as a result, thousands of people die unnecessarily each year from strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. Whilst efforts have been made by foods in supermarkets to use less salt, chefs’ preference for saltier foods is preventing further progress. It’s clear from our survey that some chefs are not listening to their customers.   These chefs need to get their act together and stop shovelling salt in our food,” said Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine at Queen Mary University and Chairman of CASH.

Alongside the food analysis, public research undertaken for Salt Awareness Week found that more than half of people find restaurant meals too salty, and 9 out of 10 people believe that restaurants and cafes should let them choose if they want to add salt to their meal or not.

“We’re all eating too much salt and with one in six meals being eaten out of the home, it’s important to keep an eye on our salt intake all the time. It’s vital restaurants provide clear menu labelling showing us how much salt is our dinner but chefs should ideally be cutting back on the salt they use and giving the diner the choice. Until then, using information on restaurants’ websites before you go out can help you eat more healthily when eating out,” said Tracy Parker, Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation.