Some ready-to-eat salads sold by restaurants contain almost the recommended amount of salt for an entire day, a survey has found.
Health campaigners Action on Salt (AoS) found that the salt content of salads bought from restaurants, sandwich and coffee shops and fast food outlets has increased by 13% to 1.86 grams on average per serving since they were last examined in 2014.
The group said the findings highlighted “a distinct lack of commitment” from the food industry to reduce salt.
More than a third (36%) of the 213 restaurant, sandwich and coffee shop and fast food salads surveyed contained 2g of salt or more.
Current health guidelines say adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, or around one teaspoon.
Pizza Express’s Grand Chicken Caesar Salad with Dough Sticks contained 5.3g of salt – more than its Classic Margherita Pizza, while McDonald’s Grilled Chicken and Bacon Salad with Balsamic Style Dressing contained the same amount of salt as its Cheeseburger, AoS said.
Even salads branded as a particularly healthy option contained high amounts of salt, such as Benugo’s Supercharged Omega Salmon with 3.5g of salt.
AoS said the findings clearly demonstrated the need for clear, consistent nutrition labelling in restaurants and fast food outlets to help customers compare products and make healthier choices.
Of the 312 supermarket salads surveyed this year, Marks & Spencer’s Teriyaki Chicken Sticky Rice Salad with a soy and wasabi dressing was the saltiest with 3.50g per pack.
AoS said excessive levels of salt were unnecessary, noting that Morrisons’ Chicken and Bacon Pasta contained more than four times the salt in Asda’s Spicy Chicken Pasta.
The survey also found some salads containing almost an entire day’s worth of saturated fats.
Aldi’s 380g Just Tasty Cheese Layered Salad contained 53.2g of fat – more than three-quarters of an adult’s maximum recommended intake – and 16.7g of saturate – 84% of the maximum recommended intake – while the Sainsbury’s 300g On The Go Cheese & Tomato Pasta contained 18.6g of fat and 4.5g of saturates.
AoS nutritionist Sarah Alderton said: “Salads are typically considered to be a healthy option, but restaurants and retailers are continuing to add unnecessarily high amounts of salt and saturated fat to their salads and putting the health of their customers in jeopardy.
“We want the food industry to be transparent by displaying clear, colour-coded nutrition information on front of pack or at the point of sale, to help consumers make a more informed decision wherever they choose to eat.”
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of AoS, said: “It’s shocking to see that certain restaurants and supermarkets have failed to take responsibility to reduce salt – especially after our 2014 survey exposed their dangerously salty salads.
“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.”
An M&S spokeswoman said: “Our wide variety of salads include some recipes that use authentic ingredients like soy sauce which have naturally higher salt content.
“Healthier options are clearly labelled with our Eat Well logo to help customers to manage their diet, and the salt content is clearly labelled on pack.
“We are committed to continuing to review the salt in our products, reformulating where possible, and over 82% of our products already meet Department of Health salt targets.”