24 May 2016 --- New research by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) has revealed there is more to flavored instant noodles than hot water. Many are dangerously high in salt i.e. greater than 5g per serving and even more surprisingly contain large amounts of hidden sugar.
CASH is now urging food manufacturers of flavored instant noodles to immediately reduce both the salt and sugar content to prevent unnecessary strokes and heart disease.
Out of the 131 products surveyed, the noodles with the highest salt content per serving is Ko-Lee Instant Noodles Chicken flavors with a staggering 5.8g salt – that’s 97% of the maximum recommended salt intake/day in the UK (i.e. 6g per day) and more than 12 packets of salted crisps.
The second worst offender is Nissin Demae Ramen Chicken flavors (100g) which contains 5.5g of salt per serving – that’s more than 2 McDonald’s Big Macs and equivalent to 92% of the maximum daily intake of salt. Even the Ko-Lee Instant Noodles Mixed Vegetable (90g) has 5.1g of salt which is comparable to more than 8 portions of McDonald’s fries.
Alarmingly, there is a huge 5.4g difference in salt per serving when comparing the product with the highest salt content (Ko-Lee Instant Noodles Chicken flavors, 5.8g) to the product with the lowest salt content (Morrisons BBQ Beef flavors Noodles and Morrisons Chicken flavors 0.4g) per serving i.e. 14 times more salt.
More than a third (37%) of products surveyed would receive a red color for front of pack labeling (48 out of 131) for high salt levels, with a further 58% having an amber color (76 out of 131). The findings also revealed that 15% of products provide 50% or more of the daily maximum recommended intake for salt (19 out of 131 products). Interestingly, the flavors with the highest salt content was chicken – the most popular selling flavors in the UK.
The survey also exposed hidden levels of sugar found in instant noodles with over a third (35%) of products surveyed containing more than 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving (46 out of 131 products).
The noodle brand with the highest total sugar content per serving is Sharwood’s Noodle Bowl Sweet Chilli Sauce with 17.4g sugars per serving – which is 58% of the daily-recommended maximum intake of free sugars (30g/7 tsp), followed by Kabuto Noodles Prawn Tom Yum and Kabuto noodles Chilli Chicken Ramen (15.3g sugars / serving) – all of which are equivalent to approximately 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Saadia Noorani, Registered Nutritionist (Public Health), World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) and Queen Mary University of London says: “The results of our research found that the highest salt content products were from international brands whereas some of the lowest salt content products were from retailers’ own brands. With the majority of salt in our diet coming from processed foods, global food manufactures need to do much more to reduce the huge amounts of unnecessary salt in their products”.
Kawther Hashem, Registered Nutritionist and Researcher for Action on Sugar and Queen Mary University of London says: “You wouldn’t expect savoury foods to contain any added sugar and therefore it’s surprising to find these products contain up to 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. We urge shoppers to check the label before purchasing and food manufacturers to stop adding large amounts of completely unnecessary sugar to our everyday foods. High sugar intake contributes to tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
Professor Graham MacGregor Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH and WASH says: “This is a perfect example of the scandal of parts of the food industry of added large and unnecessary amounts of salt and sugar to a simple product. It is clear that voluntary targets are not working in the UK. David Cameron’s obesity plan must ensure a robust plan for reducing not only sugar but salt as well. These targets for both salt and sugar must be mandated as the British Retail Consortium is calling for. Reducing salt is the most cost effective measure to reduce the number of people suffering from strokes and heart disease, the commonest cause of death in the UK.”
Top tips for choosing healthy instant noodles:
Compare nutrition labels on food packaging when out shopping. Look out for the green front of pack label or use the FoodSwitch app to help you swap to a healthier choice.
Try making your own instant noodles by using plain noodles and adding your own vegetables, fish or meat. Use black pepper instead of salt and add herbs and spices.
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