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National Salt Awareness Week reveals pie meals are excessively high in salt

  • A pie and mash meal from Wetherspoons contains a massive 7.5g of salt – the same amount of salt as 15 packets of crisps and 125 per cent of the daily maximum recommendation of 6g
  • Men are putting their health at risk by eating the equivalent of 365 pints of salt in a lifetime
  • As many as 1 in 10 men think they should eat 10g or more of salt per day

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Consensus Action on Salt and Health’s (CASH) new research, carried out as part of National Salt Awareness Week, has identified traditional English meat dishes, such as pie and mash, as one of men’s favourite foods (46 per cent). The aim of this year’s Week is to raise awareness amongst men of the dangers of eating too much salt.  In the UK, over twice as many men as women die prematurely of heart disease, heart failure and stroke (34,431 vs. 16,664 adults under 75), many of these deaths could have been prevented by eating less salt.

The new survey, which looked at 526 pie, mash and gravy products from supermarkets, large chain pubs, cafes and takeaways, showed that pie meals can be extremely high in salt. A Chicken and Mushroom Pie with chips or mash, gravy and peas from Wetherspoons contains a massive 7.5g of salt – the equivalent salt to 15 packets of crisps, or 125 per cent of the daily maximum recommendation of 6g a day.  All the pie and mash pub meals looked at contained more than 3g, half the daily maximum, with five meals containing more than 6g.

Top 5 saltiest pub pie meals:

  1. Wetherspoon Chicken & Mushroom Pie with chips/mash, gravy and peas (7.5g salt per meal)
  2. Wetherspoon British Beef and Abbot Ale Pie with chips/mash, gravy and peas/vegetables (6.7g salt per meal)
  3. Punch Taverns Lamb & Mint Pie with mash, veg and gravy (6.5g salt per meal)
  4. Punch Taverns Steak & Ale Pie with mash, veg and gravy (6.3g salt per meal)
  5. Hungry Horse Pubs Beef & Ale Pie with mash, peas and gravy (6.18g salt per meal)

CASH found that the mash and gravy could be almost doubling the salt content of your meal. For instance while a Lamb & Mint Pie from Punch Taverns contains 3.5g of salt alone, the mash and gravy add another 3g of salt to the meal.

Although there has been good progress in reducing the salt content of pies available in supermarkets, with 1 in 10 (29 out of 297) products failing to meet the 2010 salt reduction targets, there are still many products available that are unnecessarily high in salt.  The highest supermarket pie in the survey was a Waitrose Steak, Mushroom & Red Wine Pie which contains 1g of salt per 100g (2.69g of salt per 270g portion). This is over three times as much salt per 100g as the lowest supermarket products such as ASDA’s Chosen by You Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Puff Pastry Pie with 0.3g of salt per 100g (0.5g per 150g portion) and Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Beef Steak Pie with Shortcrust Pastry with 0.28g salt per 100g (0.55g per 200g portion).

Top 5 saltiest pies from supermarkets

  1. Waitrose Steak, Mushroom & Red Wine Pie (2.69g salt per 270g portion)
  2. Waitrose Aberdeen Angus Steak & Ale Topcrust Pie (2.69g salt per 300g portion)
  3. Marks & Spencer Gastro Pub (main for 1) Aberdeen Angus Steak and Stilton Pie made with Tuxford and Tebutt Stilton (2.68g salt per 260g portion)
  4. Iceland (meal for the family) Steak Pie (2.6g per 350g portion)
  5. Alfie Chadwick Cumberland Chicken Pot Pie (2.5g per 260g portion)

Buying prepared gravy and mash from your local supermarket can also result in you eating excess salt. If you combined the Waitrose Steak, Mushroom & Red Wine Pie (2.69g of salt per portion) with their Mashed Potato (1.13g of salt per portion) and their Onion Gravy (0.50g of salt per portion) you would be having 4.32g of salt per portion – nearly three quarters of the daily maximum recommendation. The highest mash and gravy - Tesco Finest Creamy Mash (1.6g of salt per portion) and Asda Extra Special Slow Cooked Beef Gravy (1.65g of salt per portion) - each contain more salt than three packets of crisps.

Takeaway pies can hugely vary too, an EAT. Chicken & Mushroom Pie contains 2.7g of salt per portion whereas a Goats Cheese and Sweet Potato Pie from EAT. contains nearly 2g less salt with just 0.8g salt per portion.

“Men need to reduce the salt in their diets but, although few would think of pie and mash as a healthy meal, many do not realise they could be exceeding their daily maximum of 6g salt in just one meal” says Katharine Jenner, Nutritionist and Campaign Director of CASH. “Just a few simple changes such as reading the labels in supermarkets or skipping the gravy in pub meals could help you stay within the healthy recommendations”.

Unlike in supermarkets where almost all products surveyed have some nutritional information and 70 per cent have front of pack information, most pubs, cafes and takeaway outlets do not. Only five pub chains had nutritional information available online, with leading chains such as Punch Taverns, Young’s, O’Neill’s, Fuller’s, Yates’s and Ember Inn’s failing to provide any information at all, meaning it is difficult to keep track of what you’re eating when dining out.

The maximum daily recommendation for salt is 6g a day (about a teaspoon) however, men currently eat about 10g of salt a day, the equivalent of 365 pints of salt in a life time, with young men eating even more. CASH’s public opinion survey commissioned for the Week found that only 1 in 7 (15 per cent) men knew that 6g was the daily salt maximum recommendation with as many as 1 in 10 men (10 per cent) incorrectly thinking they should eat 10g or more of salt a day.  

“With the food industry still putting so much salt in men's favourite foods, it is no wonder men are at risk of serious health problems such as stroke and heart attacks, the commonest causes of death and disability in the UK” says Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Wolfson Institute and Chairman of CASH.  “Cutting men's salt intake from the current 10g a day to the recommended maximum of 6g a day could reduce their risk of having a stroke by up to 20 per cent and of having a heart attack by up to 12 per cent.”

CASH is using National Salt Awareness Week 2011 to raise awareness of the dangers of the high salt in men’s diets, and is working with a number of UK charities including The British Heart Foundation, The Stroke Association, Men’s Health Forum, National Osteoporosis Society, Cancer Research UK, National Heart Forum, Blood Pressure Association, National Obesity Forum, Kidney Research UK, Asthma UK, Meniere’s Society and Alzheimer’s Society to take the message across the country, along with some high profile supporters: 

Levi Roots - Celebrity Chef "This year let’s all correct a fault and reduce our intake of salt; it's all about a healthier life style. One love."

Antony Worrall Thompson - Celebrity Chef "I'm pleased that the effect of a high salt diet on men's health is being highlighted in Salt Awareness Week. I support this initiative and would urge the food industry to think about how much salt is added to our food."

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