Shop-bought dips are 'salt and fat traps'
Many savoury products that are often bought as healthy alternatives to crisps and chocolate are actually "salt and fat traps" laden with excess calories, a health group has warned.
Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has carried out a national survey across Britain on 210 chilled dips - including hummus, guacamole, salsa, tzatziki and taramasalata - as sold by the major supermarkets.
The survey revealed that 74 per cent of the hummus products tested had a red front of pack label for high fat content, while none of the products had a green label for low salt. The dip, made predominantly from chickpeas, also contains on average 280 calories per 100g – more than 10 per cent of the recommended daily intake for women. One of the saltiest hummus dips was Marks & Spencer's Caramelised Onion Houmous which contains more salt per 100g (1.53g) than four packets of ready salted crisps and over a quarter of the daily maximum recommended intake for salt. While a serving of Asda's own-brand taramasalata was singled out for packing in as much salt as 13 Ritz crackers, according CASH.
NHS guidelines say adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day – the equivalent of one teaspoon’s worth. But CASH, which campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of "hidden" salt, says overall consumption can be difficult to monitor, since three-quarters of salt consumed is already in foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH, said the research findings demonstrates the unnecessary amounts of salt and fat being added by the food industry to what could be a healthy product.
"A diet high in salt leads to strokes and heart disease, the commonest cause of death in the UK," he said in a statement. "Reducing salt is the most cost effective measure to reduce the number of people suffering, which is why it is imperative the government announce a new robust plan for reducing salt in our diet."
While Sonia Pombo, nutritionist and campaign manager for CASH, said she believes food companies need to take action and reduce both the salt and fat content in dips.
"The variation of different products revealed in our survey shows it can be achieved, which is why it’s equally important that we as individuals read the label carefully and opt for healthier brands. Also, remember to swap unhealthy sides with vegetables e.g. carrots, peppers and tomatoes, for added bonus," she said.