Instant noodles can contain more salt than in 12 packets of crisps and more than 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving – new survey reveals
24 May 2016
Embargoed 00.01 Tuesday 24th May 2016
- New research exposes instant noodles can contain dangerously high levels of salt e.g. Ko-Lee Instant Noodles Chicken Flavour contains more salt per serving than 12 packets of salted crisps!
- 6 products contain 5g or more of salt per serving – that is more than the World Health Organisation recommended maximum daily intake for salt
- Several supermarkets’ own labels contain 10 times less salt
- Over a third of products surveyed contain more than 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving
NEW research1 by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) has revealed there is more to flavoured 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 flavoured 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 Flavour 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 crisps2!
The second worst offender is Nissin Demae Ramen Chicken Flavour (100g) which contains 5.5g of salt per serving – that’s more than 2 Big Mac3 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 fries4.
Shockingly, 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 Flavour, 5.8g) and the product with the lowest salt content (Morrisons BBQ Beef Flavour Noodles and Morrisons Chicken Flavour 0.4g) per serving i.e. 14 times more salt.
More than a third (37%) of products surveyed would receive a red colour for front of pack labelling (48 out of 131) for high salt levels, with a further 58% having an amber colour (76 out of 131). The findings also revealed that 14% of products provide 50% or more of the daily maximum recommended intake for salt (19 out of 131 products). Interestingly, the flavour with the highest salt content was chicken which is the most popular selling flavour in the UK5.
The survey also exposed hidden levels of sugar6 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 Sharwoods 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) 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 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 (www.foodswitch.co.uk).
- 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.
Table 1. Top 5 products with highest salt content as prepared per serving:
Table 2. Top 5 products with the lowest salt content as prepared per serving:
Table 3. Top 5 products with the highest sugar content as prepared per serving:
Table 4. Top 5 products with the lowest sugar content as prepared per serving:
- ENDS -
1 Survey details - full survey sorted by highest salt per serving and highest sugars per serving
For the purpose of this survey, instant noodles were defined as flavoured, instant dry noodles marketed as a snack or meal. Favoured noodles marketed to be consumed as part of a meal or a dish were excluded from this survey.
Data was collected for 143 instant noodles where nutritional information was available on packaging or websites for per 100g or per portion either as sold or as consumed/prepared. Out of 143 products, salt and total sugars per portion nutritional information were available for 131 products.
Data was collected by visiting all the main supermarkets Aldi, ASDA, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s & Waitrose during March- May 2016. Data on products not found in supermarkets during the visit were collected via retailer’s website.
As part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal the 2017 the salt target for dry flavoured noodles is 0.88g salt (maximum) as consumed per 100g.
2 A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.46g of salt https://www.walkers.co.uk/crisps-range/walkers-crisps/ready-salted
3 A MacDonald’s Big Mac contains 2.3g salt http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ukhome/product_nutrition.beef.19.big-mac.html
4 Medium MacDonald’s fries contains 0.62g salt /portion http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ukhome/product_nutrition.sides.44.mcdonalds-fries.html
6 Free sugars – includes sugars that are added to food and drink, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates, not sugars in milk products and whole fruit & vegetables. Some of the sugars in the instant noodles will be from fruit and vegetable but the majority will be added free sugars.