An analysis of Chinese takeaway meals purchased from six independent restaurants in London’s famous Chinatown district has revealed that 97% contained a 2g of salt or more per dish. Over half (58%) contained more than 3g – or half an adult’s maximum recommended daily intake in one portion.
Combining side dishes would consequently provide “far more salt” than the recommended daily limit, said Action on Salt, which conducted the study. The saltiest takeaway main with a rice or noodle side dish contained 11.5g of salt, or the equivalent of “five Big Macs”.
The survey also found large variations in the salt content of the same dishes from different restaurants. The saltiest sweet and sour dish contained 3.4g of salt, whilst in the lowest it was 1g.
Chinese ready meals sold by supermarket chains were also found to be “extremely high in salt”.
The UK was once leading the world on salt reduction – up to 2011, the UK salt reduction programme had already saved 18,000 strokes and heart attacks per year, 9,000 of which were fatal, with £1.5 billion a year in NHS healthcare saving costs, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
In 2016, Public Health England assumed responsibility for UK salt reduction, but there has been little action, Action on Salt argued, with “no progress report on whether the last set of salt targets (due to be met by the end of 2017) have been reached, nor any plans to set new targets”.
“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,” said Sarah Alderton, assistant nutritionist at Action on Salt. “If the food industry don’t comply, they should be made mandatory.”
UK adults reportedly eat 22 million takeaways each week, with Chinese the most popular option.