Health fears over the hidden dangers in sauces
A study of 15 popular pasta sauces has revealed that only three can be eaten regularly without causing health concerns.
The Irish Independent reviewed the sugar and salt content of 15 popular sauces, ranging from own brand products to household names.
Traffic light labels, which dieticians want to see introduced on all food products, mark food with a red symbol if it should be avoided, amber if it can be eaten occasionally, and green if it can be freely consumed. Of the pasta sauces reviewed by a dietician, over half had amber warnings for both salt and sugar content.
Just three - Dunnes Simply Better Arrabbiata, Janet's Just Delicious Basil and Roast Garlic, and Ballymaloe Bolognese Sauce - were considered 'green' from a sugar and salt point of view.
Claire Kerins, dietician with Croí, a heart and stroke charity, warned that people need to look at processed sauces as similar to having a pizza, limiting consumption to once a week.
The daily recommended intake of sugar is 90g. On average the sauces surveyed provided 7pc of this daily level, placing them in the amber category.
The daily recommended intake of salt is just 6g. On average, one serving of the above products provides 13pc of the daily recommended amount - also in the amber category.
Dunnes Stores Original Bolognese had the highest amount of sugar, at 8.4g per 100g - 9.3pc of the daily recommended amount of sugar.
Tesco Finest Puttanesca had the highest amount of salt, with 1.5g per 100g, providing 25pc of the daily recommended level.
While the above figures are based on a serving of 100g, often less than a quarter of a jar, many adults consume one jar between two people.
"100g is the recommended serving, but most people consume double this. If one was to consume two servings of a higher salt sauce such as the Tesco Finest Puttanesca, they could consume up to 50pc of their daily recommended amount of salt," she added.
Just two of the pasta sauces, Jamie Oliver and Janet's Just Delicious, do not add additional salt or sugar.
Mars Foods, the company behind Dolmio, announced last week that it would introduce a new label advising consumers that some products high in fat, salt and sugar should be only eaten "occasionally". It also plans to reformulate its recipes.
The Irish Independent questioned nine other companies to see if they would follow suit. Six responded.
SuperValu said it was about to launch a reformulated pasta sauce range, lower in fat, sugar and salt, adding: "On average in the range of six products, we have reduced the salt by 18.8pc and sugar by 21.9pc. It is important to note that some of the sugar content in these products is naturally occurring."
Ballymaloe Foods said it had no immediate plans to reduce sugar and salt, adding "we are always reviewing and considering our ingredients in terms of quality, sourcing, ethics. We will never use artificial sweeteners to replace sugar."
Tesco Ireland said it clearly labelled nutritional content and had "removed thousands of tonnes of salt, fat and sugar from the food we sell".
Lidl said it was in the process of introducing traffic light nutritional labelling on all products, while Aldi also said it uses the system to allow customers to make informed choices.
A spokesperson for Jamie Oliver said that the sauces "were reformulated a couple of years ago to make them amongst the lowest in sugar and salt available without compromising on flavour. As a result there are no plans to change packaging."
Ms Kerins said companies should not only change labels but also recipes, warning that the majority of people do not read food labels.
She also said reformulation should be mandatory, with clear sugar and salt levels.