Unilever subsidiary Birds Eye said today (1 November) that its range of ready meals has already met the Food Standards Agency’s salt content targets for 2010.

The UK frozen food brand has reduced salt levels per 100 grammes by an average of 37%. It has also taken steps to ensure its meals contain less than 10% fat and eliminated trans fats from its ready meals. 

According to the FSA, 85% of men and 69% of women in the UK eat more than the recommended daily amount of salt. The food standards watchdog hopes to counter this trend by setting levels of salt content permissible in processed foods to be implemented by 2010.

Having completed this move four years ahead of schedule, Birds Eye said that its meals often contain less salt than so-called ‘healthy options’.

“We have been taking nutrition seriously for a long time and the latest changes are just part of our continual development. At Birds Eye, nutritious meals are a given, so there is no need to label them as ‘healthy options’,” Birds Eye brand director, Jerry Wright said. “Our ready meals are frozen which means all their flavour is locked in. Therefore, there is less need for salt than there would be in their equivalent chilled meal.”

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Lobby groups have welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, suggesting that the brand has set an example that should be emulated by the rest of the food industry.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), said: “Birds Eye is to be congratulated on reducing the salt content of its ready meals and we very much welcome this. Importantly, the fact that Birds Eye can do this makes it clear to all other food manufacturers that this is something that is easy to do and is acceptable to the public. We now call upon all manufacturers of ready prepared meals to start immediately reducing the salt content of their food, many of which are far higher than the Birds Eye products even before they were reduced.”