Ready meals are lean on meat

CHILLED ready meals sold by the supermarket chains are low in meat but high in fat, according to the latest issue of Which? magazine. It says that a 99p meal may contain as little as 13p worth of meat, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

A survey of meals sold by six retailers found that two packs of lasagne, sold by Asda and Safeway, contained less than 10 per cent meat. An Asda cottage pie also had less than 10 per cent beef. In almost all the meals, more than one-third of the calories came from fat - and more than half in chicken kormas.

Diane McCrea, head of food and health at the Consumers' Association, said that chilled convenience meals were big business - 60,000 tons were sold in 1992 - but it was surprising 'how little meat you can get for your money'.

Even the meatiest lasagne, from Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, contained only a minimum of 22 and 20 per cent respectively. Two others, from Sainsbury and Tesco, contained a minimum of 10 per cent, about an ounce of meat. The lasagne cost 99p: 1oz of highest quality mince would cost 13p.

Ms McCrea said the high fat and relatively low carbohydrate and fibre content in such meals meant that extra-high fibre foods, such as vegetables, salad, bread or rice, were needed to compensate. Most people are advised to eat less than 25g of saturated fats a day, but half the 49g of fat in the Safeway chicken korma was saturated.