'Economy' food ranges branded 'unhealthy'Budget ranges not as healthy as standard products

01 December 2006

 

A woman pushes a shopping trolley around a supermarket.

Shoppers who rely on economy range supermarket food could be getting unhealthier products, a new report claims.

The National Consumer Council survey found that most lower-cost food contained ‘significantly’ more salt than standard own-brand products.

And some economy supermarket products had more salt and sugar than standard versions.

The NCC report accuses some retailers of contributing to inequalities in diet and health.It found fewer price promotions on healthy products at stores where people on low incomes were more likely to shop.

Price promotions

Out of the 94 standard products surveyed, 41 (44 per cent) met the Food Standards Agency's sodium target levels, but of the 49 economy products surveyed only 17 (35 per cent) met the target.

All the Asda Smartprice products surveyed had more salt than those in its standard range.

Sainsbury's Basics pizza, tomato soup, white bread and sausages all contained more salt than their standard equivalents.

Half of the Morrisons Bettabuy products had more salt than the chain's standard range - including sausages which had nearly double the amount.

By contrast, many retailers offered lower-salt versions of their ‘healthy eating’ ranges.

Economy ranges

NCC chairman Lord Whitty called on supermarkets to cut the salt content of their economy products.

‘Consumers who rely heavily on economy ranges are clearly being short-changed on health.’ he said.

Morrisons got the worst score when rated for salt levels in its Bettabuy range.

Somerfield Makes Sense was the second worst, followed in joint third place by Sainsbury's Basics and Asda Smartprice. Tesco Value got the best score of the five economy ranges evaluated for salt content.

The NCC named Sainsbury's the top supermarket when rated on its overall approach to health. Morrisons came bottom of the eight chains surveyed for the third year running.

'Out of date'

But British Retail Consortium Director General Kevin Hawkins said the report was ‘out of date’ because it was based on store visits six months ago.

Somerfield also criticised the NCC report for containing out-of-date information while  Morrisons said the report did not take into account ‘great strides’ made by the chain in the past six months.

It added: ‘Morrisons is continuing to reduce levels of salt in our own-brand foods, including Bettabuy products and we have already made significant progress.’

Since July the chain has added GDA front-of-pack nutrient labels to 2,500 own-brand products and added new healthy eating products to its Eat Smart range.