Supermarket food 'contains more fat and salt than quoted on label'

Ready meals and breakfast cereals often contain far more fat and salt than claimed on their packaging, according to new research that may make shoppers think twice about eating convenience food.

Laboratory tests found manufacturers of processed food often misled consumers, with some products having up to 91 per cent more fat than was stated on the label.

Unrealistically small portion sizes encouraged people to underestimate the calories they were consuming, while some "healthy" supermarket products had more salt or sugar than economy ranges.

An investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches programme, which goes out tomorrow night, looks at Britain's 70bn-a-year food industry.

According to figures it obtained from the Government, the British have the worst diet in Europe and each year around 70,000 people die prematurely.

Dispatches established that there is no legal stipulation on the accuracy of labels stating levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Instead, guidelines allow manufacturers a margin of error of up to 30 per cent on fat or salt content.

However, laboratory analysis showed some products substantially exceeded even these margins. Six samples of a Waitrose chocolate pudding contained an average of 45 per cent more fat than was stated on the label, with one sample exceeding the amount quoted on the label by 64 per cent.

Two out of six samples of Sainsbury's chicken curry ready meals were much fattier than shoppers were led to believe. One had a third more fat, whilst another had 91 per cent more fat.

A fifth of 43 products exceeded the margin for error on fat content.

Alan Richards, president of the Association of Public Analysts, called for the Government to reduce the margin for error to 10 per cent, saying: "The consumer is entitled to believe what's written on the labels, and I think supermarkets have a responsibility to ensure these labels are as accurate as possible."

Mr Richards, the head of scientific services for Durham County Council, added that there was also now a "crisis" in public health analysis with only 39 professionals keeping a check on commercial food.

Dispatches found that own-brand ready meals in supermarkets with names such as "Healthy Living" or "Be Good to Yourself" were sometimes less healthy than cheaper, economy versions. In addition, some branded products promoted as healthy had more salt or sugar than junk food.

With 1.55g salt per 100g, Kellogg's All Bran was saltier than a packet of ready salted crisps, while Jordan's Country Crisp muesli had more fat than a pack of cheap sausages. Premium "unadulterated" Dorset cereal had seven times more sugar than an economy muesli.

Tesco and the big food manufacturers have rejected the colour-coded traffic light labelling backed by the Government in favour of a system based on the recommended daily amount of nutrients. Dispatches said there was evidence from the National Heart Forum that the Guideline Daily Amounts were set too high 20 years ago.

In addition, cereal makers were underestimating portion sizes. The programme found that seven-year-olds in Hertfordshire were pouring 43g of cereal into their bowls compared with the 30g quoted on the label.

Philip James, a scientist who helped set up the Food Standards Agency, said: "The consumer cannot understand what's on that label because a lot of it is intrinsic nonsense."

Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

    £64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

    Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam