Uk watchdog calling for clearer labelling compared a supermarket salad to a big mac


Uk watchdog calling for clearer labelling compared a supermarket salad to a big mac

A UK consumer watchdog that is campaiging for clearer food labelling analysed a selection of pre-packed salads from high street supermarkets and found that while many provided the recommended "5 a day", they varied widely in the amount of calories, fat and salt they contained, and one in particular had more calories and fat than a "Big Mac".

Product-testing and consumer rights group Which? analysed 20 pre-packed salalds they bought from Asda, Boots, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose and discovered that Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad, for sale at £1.49 for a 300g pack at Morrisons, "contained 855 calories and 66.3g fat, which is more than a McDonald's Big Mac and medium fries and 70 per cent of the fat a man should eat in a day", they said in a press statement released yesterday.

Editor of Which? Martyn Hocking, said:

"If you thought your high-street salad was healthy, you could be in for a surprise."

"Which? has found that there were large differences between the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and calories in pre-packaged salads."

The point of the exercise was not just to highlight the "unhealthy" options, but to show how the labelling is confusing and people may not realize what they are buying: just calling a product a salad doesn't really tell you much about its nutritional value.

For instance, the label on Sainsbury's Tomato & Basil Chicken salad, selling at £2.95 for a 350g pack, said it had no mayo but the ingredients list showed it contained egg yolk, oil and white wine vinegar, which is more or less what goes into making mayonnaise.

An even more confusing label was on a 350g pack of Tesco Tuna Layered Salad. The way the ingredients are listed it looks at first like the whole pack contains just 275 calories and 20.5g fat, but a closer look reveals this is for just half the pack, the whole pack actually contains 550 calories and 41g fat, said the Which? report.

And Asda's Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, costing £2 for a 297g pack, contained nearly as much fat as six Cadbury's Creme eggs, they said. This salad had 41.3g of fat, and nearly a quarter of the salad comprised high-calorie dressing with mayonnaise (13 per cent) and Caesar dressing (10 per cent) in roughly equal parts.

The main reason that so many of the salads were high in calories and fat was the surprisingly high amount of mayonnaise and creamy sauces they contained.

Take for instance the Marks and Spencer Pasta with Tomato & Basil Chicken salad, selling at £3.20 for a 380g pack. This contained 760 calories and 46g fat, and mayonnaise was the second highest ingredient.

Some salads however, did get the thumbs up. Sainsbury's Thai Chicken Noodle, selling at £2.95 for a 260g pack, has the dressing in a separate container so you can choose how much to add, and it is also low in fat, salt and saturated fat.

And another healthy option was Sainsbury's Rainbow Salad, selling at £2.20 for a 215g pack. This met the "5 a day" suggestion by providing lots of vegetables, and also contained soya beans and lentils, rich sources of protein that are also low in fat. The dressing is separate on this salad too.

The watchdog wants UK food retailers to use one labelling convention that is easy for consumers to see at a glance the amount of calories, fat, sugar and salt in the food they are buying.

They cite research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that found what consumers would find most helpful would be a straightforward scheme that uses a "traffic light" colour scheme, with suggested daily amounts, indicating grams of nutritients in each portion and using words like "high", "medium" and "low".

Which? had these suggestions for consumers looking to make healthier choices when buying salads:

  • Pick salads with lots of different colours because this is a quick way to make sure you get one or two of your "5 a day".
  • Choose salads that have dressings and sauces in separate containers, so you can add as much or as little as you want.
  • Salads with a lot of cheese tend to be higher in fat.
  • Vegetarians looking for a lower fat option to cheese would be advised to choose salads with pulses like lentils and beans.
Hocking warned:

"Check the label or you could end up with egg on your face."

He said that this latest research highlights what Which? have been saying for some time:

"Clear, consistent labelling scheme is important to help people spot how much fat, sugar and salt is in the food they're buying."

Source: Which? magazine.

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