Unhealthy Chinese meals '˜should carry health warning'

Many Chinese meals should carry a health warning, a campaign group has warned, as an investigation revealed that some of the saltiest takeaways contain as much salt as five Big Macs.

A chinese meal. Picture: PA
A chinese meal. Picture: PA

Supermarket Chinese ready meals are also extremely high in salt with some containing more than two pizzas, while certain rice dishes have more salt than 11 bags of ready salted crisps, according to Action on Salt.

The saltiest Chinese dish from a supermarket was Slimming World’s Chinese Style Banquet Rice with 4.40g salt per 550g pack – more salt than two store-bought Pizza Express Margherita Pizzas, while Marks & Spencer’s Crispy Sweet and Sour Chicken Banquet has 4.13g salt per 500g pack, providing over two thirds of an adult’s maximum daily intake – the same as more than three McDonald’s hamburgers.

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Salt, rice dishes and other sides, such as spring rolls and prawn crackers, can add a significant amount of salt to a meal. Iceland’s Takeaway Egg Fried Rice has 4.1g salt per 350g pack – more salt than 11 bags of ready salted crisps –compared to Tesco’s Egg Fried Rice with 0.1g per 250g pack.

The investigation found that some sauces served with Chinese meals also contained excessively high levels of salt. Soy sauces were by far the saltiest – on average being over five times saltier than seawater, with sides and dipping sauces in some cases adding nearly 4g of salt per person to a meal.

Meanwhile, a selection of takeaways from independent restaurants in London revealed that 97 per cent contained 2g of salt or more per dish.

Sarah Alderton, assistant nutritionist at Action on Salt said: “Considering how many millions of takeaways and ready meals are eaten in the UK each week, the food industry must be held to account, with new salt targets set by the government to ensure the salt content of these meals is reduced to much lower levels, and fast. If the food industry don’t comply, they should be made mandatory.”

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Salt, said: “Salt is the forgotten killer as it puts up our blood pressure, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year. Reducing salt is the most cost effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from strokes or heart disease.”

Action on Salt is calling on governmental action to limit levels of salt in meals through setting new salt targets, making front of pack labelling mandatory and putting warning labels on menus for dishes high in salt.