Food manufacturers are misleading consumers over the true salt content of some processed meals, it has been claimed.

A report by Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (Lacors) accuses producers of deliberately understating portion sizes on food labels to make the amount of salt in their products seem as low as possible.

In one case, Lacors found a packet of chicken nuggets that showed the salt content for a portion weighing 15g, the equivalent of just one nugget.

“There is concern that customers are being hoodwinked and misled by some manufacturers who are deliberately quoting unreasonably small portion sizes on their packaging to mask the true salt content of their products,” said Geoffrey Theobald, Lacors chairman.

Environmental health officers at 60 local councils across the UK collected 831 samples of processed foods from supermarkets and other grocery stores.

Tests revealed that, overall, the salt content of the foods had fallen by 11% since May 2005.

However, fewer than half the foods met the Food Standards Agency's salt reduction targets for 2010, which are designed to bring down daily average salt consumption from 9g now to 6g.