Supermarket meals for toddlers contain daily salt intake in single serve: study

Anita Stone is concerned about monitoring salt levels in her son Zac’s diet. Photo: Edwina Pickles Australian toddlers are consuming their recommended daily salt intake in just one sitting, a study has found.
Nanjing Night Net

Anita Stone encourages her son Zac, 3, to eat healthy snacks. Photo: Edwina Pickles

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Australian toddlers are consuming their recommended daily salt intake in just one meal, a review of supermarket pre-packaged meals has found.

Only Organic, Heinz and Annabel Karmel were among the brands of eight meal products assessed by advocacy group Parents’ Voice and nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton.

“The very idea that we have to have these special foods for kids is the main problem,” said Dr Stanton.

“Adding salt to products marketed to children is unwise and unnecessary.”

According to the Nutrient Reference Value for sodium consumption, Australian children aged one to three years are advised to have no more than 200-400 mg of salt per day.

The Parents’ Voice investigation highlighted Only Organic Vegetable Macaroni Cheese (273mg of sodium per serve), Annabel Karmel Cheesy Chicken & Pumpkin Risotto (230 mg), Heinz Little Kids Ravioli Bolognaise (220 mg) and Annabel Karmel Beautiful Bolognese Pasta Bake (202 mg), all of which have more than 200 mg of salt in one serve.

Other products included Only Organic Beef Bolognese Pasta (114 mg), Heinz Little Kids Savoury Rice and Beef (100 mg) and Heinz Little Kids Spaghetti Bolognaise (95 mg).

The product with the lowest sodium intake per serve was Rafferty’s Garden Moroccan Lamb, with 34 mg.

A spokeswoman for Rafferty’s Garden said the brand tried to ensure all added ingredients were low-sodium alternatives. In the case of the Moroccan Lamb meal, a low-sodium speciality baker’s yeast is used.

But Dr Stanton said the best parents could do was “not provide ready-prepared meals, give them what your family eats – there is no reason why you need any special baby food.”

For Anita Stone, mum of three-year-old Zac, pre-packaged supermarket meals presented a convenient option when Zac was aged one and two.

“He was a fussy eater and it was pureed, so it was easy to eat. But I was not aware some of them met close to the daily salt intake,” she said.

“I am concerned, because he has a natural affinity for salt, and we always make sure we don’t add salt to his cooked meals.”

Around 80 per cent of the salt consumed by Australians is already in foods when they are purchased, while the last national nutrition survey found 100 per cent of Australian children already have excess sodium in their diet.

The campaign manager for Parents’ Voice, Alice Pryor, said she was concerned that products such as the Annabel Karmel Beautiful Bolognese Pasta Bake and the Annabel Karmel Cheesy Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto “proudly proclaim ‘low in sodium’ on the front of the pack.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand states that in order to advertise a product as having “low sodium”, it must have less than 120 mg of salt per 100 gram serve.While both products fall under the limit, at 110 mg and 115 mg, Ms Pryor said she still felt the claim was “misleading,” because the FSANZ guideline was written for an adult diet.

“The front of the boxes state they are for children aged one to four years. So it is clear they are not captured by that code,” Ms Pryor said.

A spokeswoman for Heinz said their products were considered “low in salt” as defined by the FSANZ code, and noted that the sodium profile of both meals was within the Nutrient Reference Values.

As a result of the investigation Parents’ Voice is calling on Only Organic, Heinz, and Annabel Karmel to “reformulate their products and ensure that their marketing claims were more closely matched to the reality”.

An Only Organic spokesman said their meals only contained a “very small amount of organic salt”, however the brand intended adjusting the sodium of both products in the near future.

Annabel Karmel was contacted for comment. Latest consumer news

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