Worried by reports that much of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods, Environmental Health Officers in Merton, in conjunction with colleagues from South West London and the Thames Valley region, have carried out a wide-ranging survey of joints of meat that are prepared for immediate and easy cooking.
Often described as ‘ready to roast’ joints, the survey confirmed that many processed joints contain high levels of salt compared to similar joints of unprocessed meat.
The typical salt content of raw meat is around 0.13g per 100g. Environmental Health Officers found the salt content of the easy option ready to roast type joint contained anything from 0.2g per 100g to 1g per 100g.
Dr Emma Mast, spokesperson for the Consensus Action on Salt and Health based at St Georges Hospital, Tooting, said, ‘This is another example of the food industry surreptitiously adding salt unnecessarily to food. Much of the salt is added to increase the water binding capacity of meat and therefore the weight of the product at no extra cost to the manufacturers.’
The joints of meat tested included own brand products from Sainsbury, Tesco, Iceland, Waitrose, Co-Op, Netto, Lidl and Marks and Spencer, as well as Bernard Matthews products.
They all contained more salt than is found in typical raw meat, but some were much worse than others. For instance, a Turkey Breast Roast contained 0.6g per 100g, a Butter Basted Chicken Breast Joint had a salt content of 1.4g per 100g. and a Basted Prime Beef Joint in Rich Beef Gravy had 0.8g per 100g. The meat with the highest salt content was a Pork Crackling Joint with chicken, sage and onion stuffing. A typical 175g serving of this pork would give a man 25% of his recommended daily salt intake.
The Medical Research Council claims that despite reductions by the food industry, people are still eating too much salt and that three quarters of the salt came from processed food.
Ian Murrell, Merton Commercial & Trading Standards Manager says:
‘If consumers want to reduce their salt intake they should avoid processed food. If you want to buy processed foods, check labels carefully, compare similar products and select the one with the lowest salt content. This will help to keep salt intake from manufactured food as low as possible, and exert pressure on manufacturers to produce food with lower salt at the same time’