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Delia Smith rapped for salty recipes

Delia Smith could be putting people's health at risk with the high salt content of some of the recipes in her new book and television series, campaigners claimed today.

In How To Cheat At Cooking, Smith recommends mixing ready-made foods - many of which are already rich in salt - rather than fresh ingredients to save time.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) said a single serving of one of the recipes, carbonara real quick, contained more than a whole day's salt.

The dish is made with ready-cooked crispy bacon and "lots" of Pecorino Romano, one of the saltiest cheeses available.

The recipe for two people, Cash said, contains more than 14g of salt, not including extra salt added when cooking the sauce and pasta.

The recommended maximum salt intake is 6g a day.

Smith's "very nutritious and very cheap" thick pea and bacon soup contains around 12g of salt, Cash said, giving people half their daily limit even when divided between four as a starter.

Professor Graham MacGregor, the chairman of Cash and professor of cardiovascular medicine at St George's Hospital in London, said 19,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks could be prevented in the UK each year if the average adult salt intake was reduced from nine grams a day to six.

"Delia Smith is very respected by the public and has great influence over what we cook," he said.

"She has been trusted by millions of people for years to provide easy, everyday recipes.

"It is a real pity that she seems to be unaware of the dangers of eating too much salt, and furthermore it seems as if these latest recipes have not been checked for their salt content.

"The majority of our food industry is making huge efforts to reduce the amount of salt they add to food and the public is becoming much more aware that eating too much salt has severe health implications"

This hard work was being undermined by chefs and cookery writers using excessive salt in their recipes, he said.

Carrie Bolt, a nutritionist with Cash, said people should cook from scratch with fresh ingredients.

"If people do want to cook one of Delia's Cheat recipes - and they are not all high in salt - then I would advise them to try the ones that do not feature high salt ingredients such as anchovies, olives, capers, stock, Parma ham, ready-cooked bacon, Thai fish sauce, soy sauce, blue cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese," she said.

"And there is certainly no need to add any extra salt during cooking."