morrison meal deal

The report found that 63% of Morrisons’ meal deal snacks were HFSS

Meal deals have come under fire from health campaigners for containing “dangerously” high levels of fat, sugar and salt.

A survey of all snacks available in high street meal deal offers by health group Action on Salt found that a third (30%) exceeded the government’s maximum salt targets.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of snacks included in meal deal offers, meanwhile, were “dangerously high in fat, salt, and sugar – with some contributing to a third of an adult’s maximum daily recommended salt intake”, said the group.

This was particularly prevalent across meat products and biscuits, Action on Salt claimed.

Of the supermarkets, Asda provided the highest proportion (82%) of HFSS snacks in its meal deal promotions, the research found.

Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of the Co-op’s meal deal snacks were deemed “unhealthy”. The retailer’s Lemon and Coriander Green Olives were the “worst offender” for salt with 2.02g per pack.

Morrisons offered a “marginally healthier proportion of snacks, although they were still within a majority at 63% HFSS”, the organisation claimed.

Sainsbury’s was described as the “best of a bad bunch” with 19% of its snacks high in salt.

Snacks bought on a meal deal in Morrisons were more likely to fail to meet their salt target (46%) compared to snacks sold at Sainsbury’s (19%), which was “the best of a bad bunch”, Action on Salt added.

Examples of products included a Ginsters Cornish pasty 180g (sold in Co-op) with more salt than five-and-a-half packets of ready salted crisps and Jacob’s Mini Cheddars 50g (sold in most retailers) with more salt than three mini Babybels.

Truly shocking

Action on Salt said the results demonstrated the need for “stronger measures to improve the nutritional quality of food by introducing mandatory comprehensive salt reduction targets with penalties for those food companies who fail to comply”.

Its group of experts would call on retailers “to only offer healthier (non-HFSS) snacks as part of all meal deals”, it added.

“Despite the overwhelming impact on health, many companies appear to have forgotten that salt is a killer,” said Sonia Pombo, campaign manager for AOS.

“These findings are well and truly shocking, especially given the vast amount of people that purchase these meal deals on a regular basis.”

Meal deals were “hugely popular, especially amongst the nation’s workforce”, added Action on Salt assistant nutritionist Sheena Bhageerutty.

“Yet unbeknown to many consumers, these meal combos and snacks are often exceedingly high in salt, which means an adult can consume their maximum daily recommended salt intake in just one meal without even knowing it,” she said. 

“Rather than trying to upsell us on salt, saturated fat and sugar, CEOs of food retailers must act more responsibly by setting strict internal standards including only healthier snack options as part of the deal.”

If the food industry wouldn’t “act and improve the nutritional quality of the foods they sell” voluntarily, the government ”must step in and legislate, for the benefit of our health”, Pombo added.

A spokeswoman for the Co-op said helping customers reduce their salt intake was “very important to us, with 94% of our own brand products already meeting the 2024 salt targets, as we continue to work towards the targets and the imminent introduction of HFSS regulations”.

“All our own-brand products carry on-pack nutritional information to help our customers with their choices and our meal deal snack options include a wide selection of healthier, green traffic light, products,” she said.

The Grocer has approached Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons for comment.