British pie, mash and gravy meals too salty: Heart health experts

A new study by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) in the UK that looked at 526 pie, mash and gravy meals and products, found some meals to be extremely high in salt. A chicken and mushroom pie with chips or mash, gravy and peas from pub chain Wetherspoons contained an alarming 7.5g of salt, well over the daily maximum recommendation of 6g a day. All the pie and mash pub meals looked at contained more than 3g, half the daily maximum, the report said. The survey, conducted by YouGov, found that the mashed potato and gravy could significantly increase the salt content of a meal. According to CASH, while good progress has been made by supermarkets in cutting salt levels in pies, there are still too many products containing unnecessary quantities of salt.

The survey discovered that traditional English meat dishes, such as pie and mash, are one of the favourite dishes among men in the UK, with 46% choosing them. CASH said it wanted to underline the health dangers of eating too much salt, with more than twice as many men as women dying prematurely in the UK of heart disease, heart failure and stroke. According to Katharine Jenner, nutritionist and campaign director of Cash, “Men need to reduce the salt in their diets but, although few would think of pie and mash as a healthy meal, many do not realize they could be exceeding their daily maximum of 6g salt in just one meal.” Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at The Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine and chairman of Cash, said, “Cutting men’s salt intake from the current 10g a day to the recommended maximum of 6g a day could reduce their risk of having a stroke by up to 20% and of having a heart attack by up to 12%.”

Tracy Parker, a heart health dietician for the British Heart Foundation, has this advice for staying within safe salt levels. “If you’re in the supermarket, look out for traffic light coloured food labels as they provide at-a-glance information on salt content. While if you’re in the pub, takeaway or cafe and can’t find this information, making simple changes such as skipping the gravy, avoiding using the salt cellar and choosing more vegetables can also make a big difference,” she said.

The food industry this week agreed to sign up to a voluntary code drawn up by the Department of Health, which involves manufacturers and supermarkets cutting the amount of salt in processed food. Nearly 170 firms and organizations had agreed to its ' Responsibility Deal' for improving public health in England. Seven of the major supermarkets, including Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, are backing the scheme, which includes a pledge to make a further 15% cut in salt levels by the end of 2012. However, many health campaigners believe that the target is not stretching enough.

This survey was a part of the National Salt Awareness Week which begins on Monday.,

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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