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Ainsley Harriott: Beware of 'hidden nasties' in food

Quiz reveals that people are largely unaware of what their diet contains
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

3rd January 2013 - Many people in England are surprised by how much salt, sugar and saturated fats are found in their favourite foods, new research has discovered.

The findings have prompted TV chef Ainsley Harriott to urge us to be more aware of the 'hidden nasties' in what we eat.


Our lack of knowledge of hidden ingredients in what we consume is based on a quiz taken by 2,006 adults last month and published by Change4Life, a public health campaign set up by the Department of Health.

Among the findings are that:

  • The majority of people (85%) don’t realise that a pre-packed ham and cheese sandwich has more salt than a Chicken Tikka Masala ready meal or a packet of ready salted crisps
  • Six in 10 people (63%) don't realise that a small pepperoni pizza has more saturated fat than fish and chips
  • Over half (58%) don’t know that a strawberry fat free yoghurt has more sugar in it than a bowl of cornflakes or black coffee with two sugars
  • 60% of people don’t know that the daily maximum amount of salt recommended is only one teaspoon

Be aware of 'hidden nasties'

Ainsley Harriott, who is the Change4Life campaign ambassador, says in a statement: "It’s really important to be aware of what hidden nasties may be in your food, and to know what you’re putting in your or your family’s bodies.

"Some of our favourite meals, takeaways and snacks contain high amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat - it's our job to make sure that we know where they are hiding!"

Cost of food

Although most people who took the quiz (84%) say they would like to be healthier, the results found that the cost of food and the amount of time people have to shop for food and prepare meals were additional barriers to healthy eating.

For instance:

  • Seven in 10 (69%) prioritise price when shopping for food
  • One in five (21%) choose items that are easiest to prepare
  • More than half (51%) choose the items which they are sure the whole family will eat

Ainsley Harriott says "it is possible to eat well on a budget, and you don’t have to give up your family favourites or treats just to be food smart". He adds: "There are simple changes you can make which will help: try to prepare food at home, cut down on saturated fat, swap high sugar options for lower ones, watch out for hidden salt in foods and check the label on the food you buy."

Food labelling

The campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) says the findings underline the need for clearer food labeling so that people can choose healthier options.

Professor Graham Macgregor, Chairman of CASH says in an emailed statement: "The salt reduction programme is saving approximately 8,500 lives a year but until all food manufacturers, restaurants, takeaways and cafes reduce the amount of salt they add to our food the nation’s health remains at risk.

"The Department of Health needs to take much more action on salt reduction, and set targets for all food manufacturers and catering outlets beyond 2012, to ensure that the maximum number of lives are saved. The aim must be to reduce salt intake to the recommended intake of 6g per day or below."

Reviewed on January 03, 2013

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