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Barbecues could be bad for your health

Largest survey of its kind finds you could be eating double your daily maximum of salt in one barbecue meal
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

18th June 2010 - We have become a nation that likes to barbecue. In 2009, according to the National BBQ Association, we held over 120 million barbecues and the World Cup and warmer weather will mean more and more people will be dining al fresco.

However, in the largest survey of its kind, CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health), surveyed 603 barbecue food products, both supermarket own brand products and well known brands. The research highlighted just how much salt is unknowingly being eaten by barbecuing Brits and how, if you want to lower your salt intake, you’ll need to shop around or make your own.

Typical barbecue

CASH defined a ‘typical barbecue meal’ as a hotdog with mustard, a burger with cheese and BBQ sauce, a piece of marinated meat, a helping of coleslaw and potato salad and plain crisps with dips.

The survey found this ‘typical barbecue meal’ could add up to as much as 12.11g of salt - more than double your daily recommended maximum of 6g a day. Yet, when looking across the range of supermarkets and brands, the lowest typical barbecue meal contained nearly ten grams less salt at 2.75g, highlighting the huge difference of the salt content in similar-looking products.

In fact, CASH discovered you could have two thirds of your maximum daily salt intake with just one burger. A beef burger (Tesco Barbecue 4 Beef Ultimate Burgers; 2g per burger) in a bread roll (Warburton’s 4 Large White Rolls; 0.95g per roll), eaten with a cheese slice (The Cooperative 10 Cheese Singles; 0.7g per slice) and a squirt of BBQ Sauce (HP Original BBQ Sauce Classic; 0.38g per 15g portion), comes to over 4g of salt, even without having any extras such as crisps and salads.

However, if you swap the Tesco’s burger for either one of Birdseye’s 4 Beef Burgers with Fresh Onion or one of The Cooperative’s 8 Beef Burgers with Onion (both 0.4g per burger), and swap the HP BBQ Sauce for Tesco’s Reduced Sugar & Salt Ketchup (trace salt per 15g), you could save 2g of salt and still have a delicious burger.

Professor Graham MacGregor of Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH said in a press release: “The fact that some manufacturers can keep the salt content right down in these foods highlights how unnecessary it is for the rest to have such a high salt content.

“It is the very high levels of salt that are added to our food that puts up our blood pressure and leads to thousands of people needlessly dying of strokes, heart attacks and heart failures every year.”

Labelling and portion size

CASH says in addition to the large variation in salt content, unclear labelling on packaging combined with the often unrealistic portion sizes makes it very hard for people to know how much salt they are eating when they have a barbecue.

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