Ready-salted restaurant meals – a pinch too far?
Good news – we’re eating the least amount of salt of any developed country. Bad news – we’re still eating far too much of it. And it’s no surprise after my experience on a nice meal out last weekend…
Apparently the catering industry is partly to blame for our excessive salt consumption, according to the healthy-eating group CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health).
This doesn’t surprise me – the other weekend I took the family out for a pub meal as a treat and I had to send the kids’ meals back as they came seasoned with extra salt.
The rules on salt in restaurants
Although food manufacturers (those who sell pre-packaged food) aren’t legally obliged to tell you the salt content of their products, the vast majority of them do. New EU laws coming into place will soon mean that this is compulsory.
However, unlike food manufacturers, cafes and restaurants don’t have to tell you how much salt is in their food. And the catering industry is also much further behind when it comes to committing to targets for reducing salt levels. So there’s very little incentive for chefs to cut down on salt, and why would they when adding it is a quick and cheap way to make food tasty?
The recommended amount of salt an adult should eat per day is 6g – about a teaspoon. My one-year-old should be eating no more than 2g and my four year old up to 3g, so you can see why I was concerned when their meals arrived sprinkled liberally with extra salt.
A sprinkle of info on menus
Thankfully, I found out before the kids’ salt levels had gone through the roof (I knew my habit of stealing food off their plates would come in handy one day) and the pub replaced the meals without any quibble. But if the kitchen’s happy to sprinkle extra salt on a child’s dinner after the cooking process, it makes me wonder how much went into their food prior to that.
Short of sending their food off to a lab every time I eat out, I have absolutely no way of knowing. Which is why I think food outlets should have to display nutritional information for food eaten outside the home. Not only would we all know how much salt, saturated fat and sugar we are eating, but it would encourage chefs to cut down on unhealthy nutrients.
In a previous conversation, CASH alerted us to how pizza contains higher salt levels than sea water. Conversation commenter Kim said:
‘Now restaurants have to put the calories on their menus, wouldn’t it be a good time to identify which are the low salt and high salt options?’
And I agree. Would you like to know how much salt is in your food or would you prefer to order what you fancy without being given the salty details?
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