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Call for action on salty Chinese takeaways

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

13th March 2018 – Chinese takeaways from restaurants and shops should carry health warnings because they often contain high levels of salt, say health campaigners.

An analysis of Chinese takeaway food from London's Chinatown district, carried out by Action on Salt, found that 97% of dishes contained 2g of salt or more per dish.

Also, 38% contained more than 3g of salt per dish, which is half an adult's recommended daily intake.

The saltiest supermarket-bought Chinese ready meal had 4.4g of salt in a 550g pack – the equivalent of 2 typical pizzas bought in a store, say campaigners.

High blood pressure risk

Eating too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Adults are advised to eat no more than 6g of salt a day – around 1 teaspoon. Guidelines say younger people should eat less.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Salt, says in a statement: "Reducing salt is the most cost effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from strokes or heart disease. We are now calling on PHE [Public Health England] to take immediate action."

Action on Salt, which was formerly known as Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), says health warnings are needed because Chinese food tops the popularity list of the 22 million takeaways eaten each week by adults in the UK.

Black bean sauce

Its analysis of meals bought at 6 independent restaurants found that the saltiest main course offering was a beef in black bean sauce with vegetable noodle dish that contained 11.5g of salt.

While black bean sauce dishes tended to be the saltiest, sweet and sour takeaways were frequently the least salty.

Of the supermarket Chinese food analysed, 43% had high salt content – containing 1.8g of salt per portion – and would receive a red warning label on packaging.

The survey found that main meals aside, high levels of salt were found in rice and other popular side dishes, such as spring rolls and prawn crackers.

Soy sauce 'saltier than seawater'

Campaigners single out soy sauce, which they say is 5-times as salty as seawater, on average.

However, they say salt levels vary markedly between establishments. For instance, the saltiest sweet and sour dish contained 3.4g of salt, whereas the lowest contained 1g.

Sonia Pombo, campaign manager at Action on Salt says, "Our data shows that food can be easily reformulated with lower levels of salt, so why haven't all companies acted responsibly?

"The lack of front-of-pack colour coded labelling on branded products makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to make healthier choices and that is simply unacceptable."

The campaign group wants to see high-salt warning labels become compulsory for restaurant and takeaway foods. It is calling on PHE to set new salt reduction targets for the food industry.

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