High levels of salt in Sunday roasts are putting Britons at risk of deadly heart disease and strokes, according to a study by health campaigners.
A survey of 600 roast lunches in supermarkets and pub chains found that they can contain up to one and a half times the maximum recommended adult daily intake of salt.
“Sunday lunch is an iconic British meal but filling it with salt puts both adults and children at risk of developing high blood pressure,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, a leading expert in cardiovascular medicine and chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which carried out the research.
“I don’t want supermarkets and restaurants to add the unnecessary amounts of salt still being hidden in our food.”
He said eating one less gram of salt per day would save 6,000 lives a year.
The study found that a ‘peppered beef brisket joint with mustard & pepper stuffing’ from Asda’s new ‘Chosen By You’ range contains 2.3g of salt per portion, one third of the recommended adult daily maximum of 6 grams and more than the 2.1g found in a McDonald’s Big Mac.
A large half roast chicken meal from a J D Wetherspoon pub contains eight grams of salt. Even a children’s roast chicken breast meal contains four grams close to the recommended daily maximum for a 7-10-year-old of five grams.
Pre-prepared vegetable dishes contained up to 1.6g of salt per portion (Tesco Finest root vegetable mash) and roast potatoes contained up to 1.3g of salt per portion (Tesco Finest goose fat roast potatoes).
A portion of Morrisons or Tesco English Mustard contains 0.5g of salt – as much as a packet of crisps.
If the saltiest ingredients found in the survey were used to make a Sunday lunch it would add up to 9.6g per person, 60 per cent higher than an adult’s recommended daily maximum.
However, Peter Sherratt, of the Salt Association, which represents the salt industry, described CASH as “extremists”, adding: “There is not enough evidence to prove a link between salt and high blood pressure.
“Besides, one of the great enjoyments in life is food and the way it tastes and that sometimes means seasoning.”
But Katharine Jenner, campaign manager for CASH said: “With all we know about the dangers of salt on our health, it is disappointing that a portion of vegetables or a small amount of mustard could still contain more salt than a packet of crisps.”
Julian Hunt, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation said: “This research does a huge disservice to a great British tradition. The Sunday roast is a time when families sit together to enjoy a hearty and healthy meal compiled from a wide range of fresh ingredients.
“British food manufacturers are leading the world when it comes to changing the recipes of their products to contain less salt. Those who want a lower salt option can find one simply by looking at the labels.”
A spokeswoman for Asda said: “We all love a traditional Sunday roast, especially now the weather has got a bit nippy. We always clearly label all our food so customers can see at a glance what’s in it.
“We all need to watch the amount of salt we eat and we have worked hard to ensure that all our own-label food is not only delicious but adheres to the FSA targets on salt content, which we achieved two years ahead of the 2010 deadline.
“In 2008, we removed 280 tonnes of fat, 284 tonnes of saturated fat, 521 tonnes of sugar & another 83 tonnes of salt from our food.”
A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon said: “We are working closely with food suppliers, development chefs and the Food Standards Agency to reduce the amount of salt in all of our meals.”
Saltiest products in a typical Roast Beef Sunday lunch (source: Consensus Action on Salt and Health)
Roast Beef – ASDA Chosen By You Peppered Beef Brisket Joint with Mustard & Pepper Stuffing (2.3g per 212.5g portion)
English Mustard – Tesco/Morrisons English Mustard (0.5g per 5g portion)
Yorkshire Pudding – Aunt Bessie’s 6 Delicious Large Yorkshire Puddings (0.5g per 27.5g portion)
Stuffing* – Marks & Spencer Buttered Onion & Herb Breadcrumb Stuffing (1.10g per 60g portion)
Gravy – Morrisons Beef Gravy (1.3g per 125g portion)
Roast Potatoes – Tesco Finest Goose Fat Roast Potatoes (1.3g per 225g portion)
Vegetable Mash – Tesco Finest Root Vegetable Mash (1.6g per 250g portion)
Cabbage/Greens – Sainsbury’s Red Cabbage (1.01g per 150g portion)
Apple Pie – Aunt Bessie’s Scrumptious Bramley Apple Pie (0.8g per 151g portion)
Custard – Morrisons Ready to Serve Custard (0.3g per 212.5g portion)
*excluded from the total of 9.61g as the Asda beef already includes stuffing.