The Valentine's meal deal that contains more salt than six McDonald's hamburgers
Romantics may get more than they bargained for from some High Street Valentine's Day dinner offers - with one M&S meal deal containing as much salt as SIX McDonald's Hamburgers.
New research reveals "shockingly" high levels of hidden salt in Valentine's Day Meal Deals sold at some of Britain's biggest retailers.
Top retailers are providing excessive salt, calories, saturated fat and sugars in their Valentine's meal deals at bargain prices, according to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH).
Now CASH is calling for retailers to act "more responsibly" and only offer discounts for much healthier meals.
The CASH study, conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University in London, revealed the excessive and harmful amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat (saturates) found inside the majority of retailer meal deal combinations.
The saltiest meal deal combination comes from Marks & Spencer, offering customers a starter, main, side dish and dessert for two, including a bottle of wine/sparkling wine and a box of chocolates.
Their worst culinary culprits are the Italian antipasto delicatessen selection, gastropub gammon shanks with a rich orange & cranberry sauce, truffled cauliflower cheese and Dutch apple tarts, which provide a shocking 7.16g salt per person, topping an adult's DAILY maximum recommended salt intake.
As well as exceeding six burgers worth of salt, the meal would also provide you with 23.9g saturates, which is 120% of the daily maximum recommended intake, according to the research.
Other meal deal combinations that could raise blood pressure include the Waitrose Scottish cooked mussels in a bisque sauce, Easy to Cook coq au vin, cauliflower cheese and a salted caramel & chocolate tart at 5.49g salt per person, accounting for more salt than eight servings of McDonald's medium fries.
Professor Graham MacGregor, of Queen Mary University who is chairman of CASH, said: "Salt is the forgotten killer as it puts up our blood pressure, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year."
Professor MacGregor called on retailers to act more responsibly and only offer discounts for much healthier meals and said that reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering.
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Meal deals at Asda, Morrisons, Iceland, The Co-op and Tesco all contained high levels of salt.
Sarah Alderton, Assistant Nutritionist at CASH, said: "Valentines is a special occasion and therefore it is no surprise that the meals offered in these 'dine-in' deals are of a more indulgent nature.
"However, our survey has shown that you could easily reach your daily calorie intake and consume way over the maximum recommended daily amount of salt, saturates and/or sugar in just one meal, so choose wisely.
"Healthier combinations are available; we found those that were lower in salt were also typically lower in calories, saturates and sugar too, so it pays to read the label and compare the different options available."
Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at CASH, added: "Retailers should have a duty of care to their customers, so it's very disappointing to see such a poor offering of healthier choices available in their Valentine's meal deals.
"Whilst Valentine treats are fine, there is no need to make it at the expense of our health. Many of these meal combinations provide an excessive amount of salt and calories, saturates and sugars, all of which put us at increased risk of heart disease, and could easily be reformulated, with much lower levels of salt."
The findings revealed that there are some healthier meal deal combinations available across all retailers, providing customers with significantly fewer calories, saturates, sugars and salt.
Shoppers can use the FoodSwitch UK app to find healthier choices, where they can the barcode of regular brands to get colour coded nutrition information and see a list of healthier alternatives.
In response Waitrose said: "Our meal deal includes options like tuna steaks, roasting vegetables, asparagus tips, babyleaf salad and a berry & pomegranate fruit pack - so customers have a wide range of choice on Valentine's day."
Our sister site iNews has pitted all the supermarket Valentine meals against each other - see the results here