The high salt content of shop bought sandwiches could be putting the health of people across Northern Ireland at risk with a study out today finding some contain as much as several bags of crisps.
An investigation by Which? magazine has found that some lunchtime sandwiches could contain as much as nine packs of ready salted crisps — but consumers may not realise this as they do not have to carry a nutritional label.
Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke said today it was disappointed at the findings of the Which? investigation and called for better labelling of foods to enable shoppers to easily gauge the nutritional value of foods they are buying.
The consumer champion’s latest sandwich report has unwrapped some surprising statistics.
Subway’s six-inch Meatball Marinara has 4.7g of salt — equal to nine packs of Walkers ready salted crisps and more than 75% of an adult’s 6g maximum daily intake, Marks & Spencer’s Wensleydale & Carrot Chutney has 25.5g of sugar — equivalent to more than five teaspoons, while Asda’s Vintage Cheddar Ploughman’s (no mayo) has 15.2g of saturated fat, more than 75% of a woman’s maximum guideline daily amount.
It is not mandatory for companies to provide nutritional information on food, but the sandwiches bought from supermarkets, Boots and coffee chains all did.
Subway recently signed up to the Food Standard Agency’s scheme to provide calorie information when eating out.
Which? is campaigning for all companies to provide nutritional information at the point of sale.
Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine, said: “A sandwich might seem like a pretty healthy option but there can be shocking amounts of salt, sugar and fat in some of them and you’d have no idea if they’re not labelled.
“We’re pleased to see that some coffee shops and sandwich chains have signed up to the Food Standards Agency’s pilot scheme to provide calorie information when eating out, but we think all food outlets should provide this information as a matter of course.”
Anne Madden, director of research and advocacy at Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, said she was disappointed by the findings given the efforts being made by health charities and other consumer groups to improve people’s diets.
“However, we are not completely surprised by the survey,” she said.
“It is a fact that nutritional labels have a major impact on the ingredients used in food. If the consumer knew how much salt or saturated fat was contained in these sandwiches they would simply leave them on the shelf.
“It should be compulsory for all food retailers to display nutritional labels on their food, particularly in this era when we are fighting an obesity and diabetes epidemic.
“NICHS supports ‘traffic light’ labelling on food created by the Food Standards Agency, which is red, green and amber coding that enables shoppers to see at a glance the nutritional value of food items.
“NICHS has just produced a recipe book with healthy, simple recipes that includes an explanation of traffic light labelling.”
So, what damage can too much of it do to your health?
Sodium is an essential nutrient and salt is the major source of sodium in the UK diet. Most people, however, consume more sodium than is required.
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which triples your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke, whatever your age.
Cutting down on salt reduces blood pressure, whether or not your blood pressure is high to start with.
When your blood pressure goes down, your risk of developing heart disease and stroke goes down too, whatever your age.
If you have high blood pressure, cutting down on salt can help to lower your blood pressure in weeks.
You may start to notice a wider range of flavours in food, as your |taste buds adjust to having less salt.
When most people think of salt, they think of shaking it on their food, or adding a pinch to cooking and it is important to try to get out of the habit of using salt in this way, but you also need to be careful about the salt you cannot see.
About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, including processed foods such as ready meals, sauces, baked beans and pizza.
Almost everyone eats at least some of these types of foods.
Even people who make all their own meals from scratch will usually buy foods such as bread and cheese, which contain salt.
So, before you assume that you do not eat too much salt, take a look at what you're buying, as well as how you use salt at home.
Remember that the amount you eat of a particular food affects how much salt you will eventually get from it.