14 Feb 2018 --- Top retailers are providing excessive salt, calories, saturated fat and sugars in their Valentine’s “dine-in” meal deals at bargain prices – that is the assertion from Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), a campaign group concerned with salt and its effects on health. The UK organization has carried out a new survey that reveals high levels of salt “hidden” in Valentine’s Day meal deals on sale at some of Britain’s biggest supermarkets.
For instance, according to the CASH data, eating a Marks & Spencer meal combination can provide as much salt as six McDonald’s hamburgers.
The group is warning shoppers that certain choices are packed with salt and urging retailers to act more responsibly and only offer discounts for much healthier meals and not offer cut-price bargains on salt-laden meal deals.
The CASH survey gives high salt examples from Waitrose, M&S, Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Iceland, The Co-Operative, including desserts and savory meal deals.
The group says that from the Valentine’s meal deals surveyed, the saltiest meal deal combination is from Marks & Spencer, offering customers a starter, main, side dish and dessert for two, including a bottle of wine/sparkling wine and a box of chocolates.
Opting for their Italian Antipasto Delicatessen Selection, Gastropub Gammon Shanks with a Rich Orange & Cranberry Sauce, Truffled Cauliflower Cheese and Dutch Apple Tarts would provide a shocking 7.16g salt per person - which is more than an adult’s daily maximum recommended intake for salt in just one meal. The meal would also provide you with 23.9g saturates - 120 percent daily maximum recommended intake - and more than 10 tsp of sugar (41.9g).
This meal combination would bring the total number of calories per person to 1,129kcal, which is more than half an adult’s daily recommended energy intake. Marks & Spencer also includes a 60g box of chocolates in this meal deal which would add an additional 161 calories and 14g sugar per person.
CASH says that other meal deal combinations to “raise your blood pressure,” include;
The findings also reveal that there are some healthier meal deal combinations available across all retailers, providing customers with significantly fewer calories, saturates, sugars and salt.
But CASH says that: “Unfortunately, most retailers completely fail to promote healthier choices to their customers. Of the retailers surveyed, only Marks & Spencer, Iceland, The Co-operative and Waitrose provided a small choice of unprocessed fruit and vegetables as a side dish/dessert option as part of the meal deal.”
Sarah Alderton, Assistant Nutritionist at CASH, urges shoppers to read labels and compare the different options available.
“Valentines is a special occasion and therefore it is no surprise that the meals offered in these 'dine-in' deals are of a more indulgent nature. However, our survey has shown that you could easily reach your daily calorie intake and consume way over the maximum recommended daily amount of salt, saturates and/or sugar in just one meal, so choose wisely,” she says.
“Healthier combinations are available; we found those that were lower in salt were also typically lower in calories, saturates and sugar too, so it pays to read the label and compare the different options available.”
Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at CASH believes retailers have a duty of care to their customers.
“It’s very disappointing to see such a poor offering of healthier choices available in their Valentine’s meal deals,” she said. “While Valentine treats are fine, there is no need to make it at the expense of our health. Many of these meal combinations provide an excessive amount of salt and calories, saturated and sugars, all of which put us at increased risk of heart disease, and could easily be reformulated, with much lower levels of salt.”
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH, adds how Britain was leading the way in reducing salt intake. However, he slams the current government for its lackluster approach to salt intake.
“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,” he said. “Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering.”
“The government now needs to come up with a new robust plan that slowly reduces the salt content of all foods and stop the food industry from promoting unhealthy products and causing thousands of unnecessary deaths.”
In response to the survey, a Marks and Spencer spokesperson tells NutritionInsight: “Valentine’s Day is all about enjoying a treat with you your loved one – our Dine In is delicious, hugely popular with our customers and we clearly label the nutrition content of all our food on the front of pack.”
“Our meal deal includes options like tuna steaks, roasting vegetables, asparagus tips, babyleaf salad and a berry & pomegranate fruit pack - so customers have a wide range of choice on Valentine's Day,” a Waitrose spokesperson tells NutritionInsight.
NutritionInsight has also reached out to Asda and Morrisons.
By Gaynor Selby
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