Sandwich health lottery: The High Street brands with FIVE TIMES the salt and fat of their rivalsOne chicken sandwich can have double the fat in what appears to be the same filling from a rival retailer
23:36 GMT, 16 May 2012
Buying a sandwich on the high street has become a health lottery with huge differences in the levels of fat and salt in selections that appear to be the same.
A chicken salad sandwich from one outlet can have double the level of fat found in what appears to be the same filling from a rival retailer.
Similarly, the fat levels in egg mayonnaise sandwiches vary enormously.
The findings come from consumer champions Which and reveal just how difficult it is for office workers and others to make healthy choices
The salt level found in a bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) can also be double depending on where people shop for lunch.
The findings come from consumer champions Which and reveal just how difficult it is for office workers and others to make healthy choices.
The organisation is calling on the government to back a system of traffic light labelling to help people make healthy choices ‘at a glance’.
The system, which has been shown to work, uses red, amber and green logos to identify whether a food product is high, medium or low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
Clear labelling is seen as key to helping people to cut down on fat consumption and so turn back a tide of obesity among both adults and children.
Similarly, people are routinely overdosing on salt – mainly from processed food – which creates a risk of raised blood pressure, stroke and early death.
Which looked at the nutrition data for three popular sandwich choices, chicken salad, egg mayonnaise and BLT served up by 15 high street chains, including supermarkets, specialist chains and coffee shops.
Six out of the 15 retailers use the traffic light system on a voluntary basis. Others are fiercely opposed to the scheme, claiming it unfairly demonises certain foods.
The research found that a Morrisons chicken salad sandwich contains 11.7g fat, which is almost double the 6g found in the same sandwich from Waitrose. Waitrose uses traffic light labels, while Morrisons does not.
The highest fat level in a chicken salad filling was the 15.4g in a Lidl version followed by the Marks & Spencer option at 13.8g.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, when in opposition, rejected traffic light labelling
An Aldi egg mayonnaise sandwich contains 22.3g fat, which is more than double the 10.1g in an Asda version. Asda uses traffic lights, while Aldi does not. The highest fat reading for an egg mayo option came from Pret a Manger at 23.4g.
A Lidl BLT has 3.36g salt, which is more than half the 6g recommended for an adult for an entire day.
The high salt reading was also more than double the 1.5g found in the equivalent sandwich from Boots. Again, Boots uses traffic lights, while Lidl does not. The second highest salt level was found in the Pret a Manger BLT at 2.95g.
The Government launched a consultation on the future of food labelling earlier this week in the hope of delivering a simple, uniform system across the high street.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, when in opposition, rejected traffic light labelling despite the fact it was supported by health campaigners and doctors.
Consequently, supporters of traffic light labels will have a tough task in convincing him to change his mind.
Which executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘With obesity levels reaching epidemic proportions, it’s more important than ever that consumers know exactly what they’re eating.
‘Many retailers are already using traffic light labelling, but the rest need to catch up and do what works best for consumers.
‘We want to see the Government insist that all food companies use traffic lights on their labels, so there’s a clear, consistent system that makes it easier for people to make informed choices about what they eat.’
In fact, the responsibility for food and nutrition labelling has been passed to the EU, which is the only authority that can impose a new legally binding regime.
Consequently, the only way to introduce traffic light labelling in the UK would be on the basis of voluntary measures by food firms.
Director of the British Sandwich Association, Jim Winship, said: ‘The variations quoted in the report are not surprising given the differences in recipes and price points between brands.
‘The quality of ingredients can make a huge difference as can factors such as the thickness of the bread used in a particular sandwich, the proportion of each ingredient used and particularly the amount of lettuce used.’
He added: ‘We have always encouraged clear labelling on sandwiches so that consumers can make a reasoned choice if they wish to do.
‘All major retailers provide information either on the front or back of pack and most provide much more than they are required to as they see it as part of their responsibility to consumers to work with Government to encourage healthier diets.’