Four of the five “healthy-sounding” plant-based meals served by major UK restaurant chains would attract a red light label for their high salt levels, according to research according to which many dishes are hidden under a “halo of vegan health. “
Action on Salt found that three of the five plant-based restaurant meals surveyed contained 3g or more of salt, half the maximum daily dose recommended by an adult. Nineteen meals contained at least 6 grams.
The survey, believed to be the largest of its kind in the burgeoning vegan sector, analyzed 290 curries, pizzas and other dishes offered in 45 restaurant chains, takeaway, fast food and coffee shops in the UK.
The worst culprit was Papa John’s average hot American pizza with 9.28 g of salt, more than in seven McDonald’s burgers. The seafood chain, Loch Fyne’s spiced roasted cauliflower and pumpkin curry, contained 8.65 g, making it saltier than 19 anchovies, and Bella Italia’s vegan cheese pizza had 8.1 g of salt.
The action on Salt’s campaign manager, Sonia Pombo, said restaurants are taking advantage of the “vegan health halo” to continue “drowning in salt and saturated fat.”
“It is time for restaurants and cafes to intensify and start producing healthy foods for us and better for the planet,” he said.
Producers, supermarkets, restaurants and pub chains are drawing on the thriving market created not only by vegans, but also by “flexitarians”, who eat meat but want to reduce their consumption.
Action on Salt said the food sector is far behind the food sold in supermarkets in terms of nutrition and labeling and described the lack of nutritional information available to diners as dismal.
Public Health England’s 2017 salt reduction targets include voluntary targets for the food sector, which Action on Salt said the government should apply to ensure a level playing field.
Papa John’s, Loch Fyne and Bella Italia did not respond to requests for comment.