Australian health campaigners have warned prepared meals aimed at toddlers in the country are “too salty”, with children consuming their entire recommended daily intake of salt in a single meal.

A study carried out by advocacy group Parents’ Voice flagged the levels of salt in Only Organic vegetable macaroni cheese and beef bolognese pasta, as well as Kraft Heinz-owned Heinz Little Kids ravioli bolognese, and Annabel Karmel’s chicken and pumpkin pie and bolognese pasta bake. 

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton, who is working with Parents’ Voice, said: “The Nutrient Reference Value for sodium consumption for Australian children aged one to three years is 200-400mg per day. It would be hard for parents to keep their children’s sodium consumption to recommended levels if these types of products are consumed regularly.

Only Organic meals contain 273mg of salt, the Annabel Karmel meals have 230-202mg of salt and Heinz Little Kids has 220mg of sodium. 

Another “concerning addition” was the use of apple juice concentrate and apple juice in the Annabel Karmel meals examined, Parents’ Voice said. “These add sugar and accustom young palates to a sweeter taste, but won’t add any significant nutrient content,” Dr Stanton added.

Alice Pryor, campaigns manager for Parents’ Voice said the group is calling on Only Organic, Kraft Heinz and Annabel Karmel to reformulate products and amend their marketing claims. “Parents want to give their children the best start to life, and these products lead parents to believe they are healthy and nutritional meals for their children when many of them are actually laden with hidden salt and sugar. In particular, both Annabel Karmel meals proudly proclaim ‘low in sodium’ on the front of the pack, a claim we think is misleading,” she said. 

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