By Helen Albert
The level of salt in hot takeaway meals from small independent outlets in the UK should be reduced to minimize adverse health consequences, say researchers who found that levels were disturbingly high.
The team found that takeaway pizzas had the highest salt content, followed by Chinese meals, although they note that there were significant differences in salt content between similar meal types provided by different suppliers.
The ideal Reference Nutrient Intake per day of salt for adults in the UK is 4 g/day, although current targets are to reduce the average adult intake to 6 g/day by 2015.
As reported in Appetite, Agnieszka Jaworowska (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) and colleagues found that the median amount of salt in 411 samples of hot takeaway food from many of 23 different meal types exceeded 4 g, with some meals containing almost double the recommended daily salt intake.
For example, the highest median amount of salt per portion was 9.45 g in takeaway pizzas (range 6.97-12.83 g), followed by 8.07 g in Chinese meals (range 5.47-10.99 g), 6.21 g in kebabs (range 4.01-8.35 g), and 4.73 g in Indian meals (range 3.61-6.10 g).
The team notes that none of the 23 meal types tested contained less than 2 g salt, one-third of the currently daily allowance for adults. Indeed, some meal types such as pizza substantially exceeded the 2006 UK Food Standards Agency recommended levels of 1.2 g salt per 100 g portion.
Only the English takeaway meals met the suggested salt content per 100 g of 0.5 g, but these meals still exceeded salt recommendations due to extremely large portion sizes (median 748 g).
Research reported by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in 2010 suggested that lowering salt intakes in the UK by 10% has resulted in 6000 fewer cardiovascular-related deaths per year. However, continued reductions in dietary salt intake are difficult without changes in the salt level in commercially produced foods, say the authors, who emphasize that small independent food outlets appear to be more resistant to changes in food salt content than major catering chains.
"The most effective strategy to reduce salt intake in populations should involve changes in the food environment, recipe reformulations, altering the food preparation process and consumer education," say Jaworowska et al.
Increased consumer knowledge should help reduce dietary salt intake, add the authors, who explain that recent Australian and UK studies "indicated that less than 50% of participants were concerned about the amount of salt in their diet and only 5% of them were able to correctly identify the current recommended daily salt intake."
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