Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – The WHO)s 2004 global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health: status and renewal of effort

Salt as a public health challenge in continental European convenience and ready meals

Sonja Kanzlera1, Christina Hartmanna1, Anita Grubera1, Guido Lammera1 and Karl-Heinz Wagnera1 c1

a1 Department of Nutritional Sciences, ‘Emerging Field Oxidative Stress and DNA Stability’, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria


Objective To assess the salt content of continental European convenience and ready meals.

Design A multistage study in which, after laboratory analysis of the products’ salt contents (n 32), new salt-reduced meals were developed through food reformulation. Additionally, a comprehensive survey of convenience meals from the Austrian market (n 572) was conducted to evaluate the salt contents of a wider product range.

Setting Six continental European countries participated.

Subjects No subjects enrolled.

Results The salt contents of continental European convenience and ready meals mostly exceeded 1·8 g/100 g, which is 30 % of the targeted daily intake level; some contained even more than the recommended daily intake of 6 g. The highest salt contents were found in pizzas and pasta dishes, the lowest ones in sweet meals. Large variations in salt levels were found not only between and within meal type categories, but also between similar meals from different producers. In addition, our approach to develop new salt-reduced meals showed that a stepwise reduction of the ready meals’ salt contents is possible without compromising the sensory quality.

Conclusions To address the problem of hypertension and increased risk for CVD through high salt intake, a reduction of the salt levels in continental European convenience and ready meals is urgently needed, since they are providing a major part of the daily salt intake. Successful national-wide salt reduction strategies in the UK or Finland have already demonstrated the public health impact of this setting.

(Received August 20 2013)

(Revised February 25 2014)

(Accepted March 20 2014)

(Online publication May 08 2014)


  • Salt;
  • Convenience products;
  • Ready meals;
  • Hypertension


c1 Corresponding author: Email