Ready meals in Australian supermarkets are still much too salty

Wednesday, 04 October, 2017

Ready meals in Australian supermarkets are still much too salty

Ready meals in Australian supermarkets are still way too salty — and not just a by a little bit. New research is showing that on average, both the frozen and refrigerated ready meals in Woolworths, Coles, IGA and ALDI contain half an adult’s recommended daily salt intake, with some containing well over the maximum daily amount of salt in a single serve.

Released as part of the Unpack the Salt campaign, the report by The George Institute for Global Health and VicHealth examined the salt content of 1478 supermarket ready meals including popular pasta, curry and noodle dishes as well as traditional meat and vegetable meals. The number of supermarket ready meals captured increased 129% from 208 products in 2010 to 473 products in 2017. There was no reduction in the average salt content of the entire ready meal range during this time

In fact, results revealed a concerning 31% increase in the salt content of chilled ready meals — despite Australia’s commitment to a 30% reduction in population salt intake by 2025.

The ready meal market is currently estimated to be worth $900 million/year and is still growing in leaps and bounds. The chilled ready meal category is experiencing the fastest growth, with four times as many products available in 2017 compared to 2014.

These popular meals may solve the perennial “What’s for dinner?” dilemma, but the solution should not come at a cost to consumers’ health. VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said people found it difficult to keep track of how much salt they were eating, as three-quarters of it came from processed and packaged foods — including ready meals.

“If we are to achieve a 30% reduction in Australia’s salt intake by 2025, we need to adopt targets to drive industry to reduce the amount of salt in their products.”

Some key findings:

The serving sizes of ready meals vary significantly, influencing how much salt is eaten in a single serve, for example; in the chilled ready meal range, Quick as Wok Chicken Teriyaki contains more than an entire day’s worth (or 117%) of the recommended maximum daily salt intake in just one serve (5.85 g/serve) and is 22 times saltier than My Pasta Box Classic Tomato and Basil Penne (0.26 g salt/serve).

In the frozen ready meal range, CP Authentic Asia Prawn Wonton Tom Yum Soup with Ramen contains 96% of the daily recommended maximum intake of salt in just one serve (4.79 g/serve) and is almost 10 times saltier than The Sultan’s Kitchen Butter Chicken (0.53 g/serve).

In the ambient ready meal category (found on the supermarket shelf), Kraft’s Deluxe Mac & Cheese topped the highest salt content per 100 grams (1.96 g salt/100 g), almost five times saltier than SunRice Street Snack Chicken Satay (0.43 g salt/100 g).

Unpack the Salt was launched in August by VicHealth and the Heart Foundation on behalf of the Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership to raise awareness about the high levels of salt in processed and packaged foods.

Image credit: ©

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