Some Chinese ready meals found to have more salt than 11 bags of crisps

Some takeaway dishes contain as much salt as five Big Macs with ready meals also high in salt

Chinese takeaways and ready meals should carry compulsory health warning labels on menus and packaging to alert consumers to astonishing and harmful salt levels, UK health experts have recommended.

The worst-offending Chinese takeaway dishes in a survey published on Tuesday by Action on Salt were found to contain as much salt as five McDonalds Big Macs, while many had more than half an adults entire daily allowance.

Supermarket Chinese ready meals were also laden with salt, with some containing more than the amount found in two Pizza Express margherita pizzas, the report reveals. Some rice dishes contained more salt than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.

Action on Salt is leading a group of health experts in calling on Public Health England to set tough new salt targets, make front-of-pack labelling mandatory and to follow New Yorks lead by requiring chains to put warning labels on high-salt dishes. They are also urging the food industry and restaurants to reduce salt by reformulating takeaways and ready meals.

Of 141 supermarket Chinese ready meals analysed, nearly half (43%) were high in salt containing more than 1.5g/100g, or 1.8g per portion which would trigger a red traffic light label.

Chines food graphic.

Salt is the forgotten killer as it puts up our blood pressure, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year, said Graham MacGregor, the chairman of Action on Salt and a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

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 Public Health England to take immediate action.

Accompanying rice dishes, spring rolls and prawn crackers and soy sauce can pile on the salt in a Chinese meal. Icelands takeaway egg fried rice has a shocking 4.1g salt per 350g pack more than in 11 bags of ready salted crisps.

Dishes from six Chinese restaurants were also analysed, with 97% found to contain 2g of salt or more. More than half (58%) contained in excess of 3g of salt per dish half an adults maximum recommended daily intake.

At the start of salt awareness week, Action on Salt is calling on Public Health England to revive the UKs salt reduction programme. The last set of salt targets drawn up under the Department of Healths responsibility deal was published in 2014.

The findings from the survey are very concerning, said Hemini Bharadia of Blood Pressure UK. We are all eating too much salt. This can lead to high blood pressure causing strokes and heart attacks, most of which could be avoided through better lifestyle choices.

Quick guide

Processed foods

These are some of the UKs best-selling ultra-processed foods

Mr Kipling Angel slices

Batchelors Super Noodles

McVities digestive biscuits

Kelloggs Rice Krispies

Walkers cheese and onion crisps

Cadburys Crunchie

Haribo sweets

These are the ingredients in Mr Kipling Angel slices

SugarListed first, so it is the biggest ingredient. Each slice contains 13.2g of sugar, which is 15% of an adults recommended daily intake

Vegetable oils (rapeseed, palm)Rapeseed oil is healthy, but palm oil is a highly saturated fat, widely used in industrially-produced foods because of its very low cost

Wheat flour (with added calcium, iron, niacin, thiamin) Added vitamins but this is finely milled white flour


Glucose syrupAnother form of sugar, made from maize in the USA, where it is called corn syrup, or from potatoes and wheat

Humectant (vegetable glycerine) Reduces moisture loss

DextroseAnother form of sugar

Dried egg white

Whey powder (milk)Gives texture

Vegetable fat (palm) Cheap form of saturated fat

Maize starchOften used as an anti-caking agent in sugars

Skimmed milk powder

Raising agents (disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate)

Emulsifiers (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, sorbitan monostearate, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, soya lecithin, polysorbate 60)Emulsifiers are additives used to stabilise processed foods

Tapioca starchThickening agent derived from cassava roots


Stabiliser (xanthan gum)Made from fermented sugars. Prevents ingredients from separating

Preservative (potassium sorbate)

Milk proteinCan be used in industrially-made sponge cakes to replace egg, giving volume, elasticity and texture


Gelling agent (sodium alginate) This is E401, extracted from brown seaweed and used as a stabiliser in cream

Colours (titanium dioxide, cochineal, lutein) Titanium dioxide is an additive used in paint but also massively in food to give a white colour. Cochineal is the red colouring derived from insects. Lutein is yellow colouring extracted from marigolds

Acid (acetic acid)A leavening ingredient in baked goods when combined with baking soda

Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: Our salt consumption has decreased over the last decade a loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further.

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