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Time to curb your ready-made sauce consumption, warns food giant

Most of us have a pretty good idea which foods should only be eaten in moderation, but in an unusual move, a food giant has issued a warning to consumers about their products that are only fit for consumption once a week.

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Among the products Mars Food will label “occasional” instead of “everyday” are Dolmio lasagne sauce, pesto, carbonara and macaroni oven kits, and Uncle Ben’s oriental sauces —which are higher in salt, sugar and fat to maintain the “authentic” taste. According to the BBC, around 5 percent of the company’s products will be labeled “occasional.”

Mars said it considered all of the ingredients that would go into making a complete meal using the product, and not just (for example) the oriental sauce itself, when making the call between “occasional” and “everyday.” Its website will be updated over the next few months with the list of products not to be eaten more than once a week, estimated to be 5 percent of the company’s global portfolio.

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As well as helping customers to differentiate between products they can eat every day and those they shouldn’t eat more than once a week, the Mars Food “Health and Wellbeing Ambition” initiative will include improved nutritional product composition across its portfolio, such as reducing sodium by an average of 20 percent by 2021 and reducing added sugar in a limited number of sauces and light meals by 2018. All tomato-based jar products will include a minimum of one serving of vegetables, and the multigrain options will be expanded so that half of all rice products will include whole grains and/or legumes.

Many questions are being asked following Mars Food’s announcement. Is it a bold move, or “brand suicide?” asked PR Week. Will any other companies take Mars Food’s lead and create more responsible labeling? Should the sugar tax, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his recent budget, apply to all foods and not just soft drinks? And, crucially, will the people who take notice of the “occasional” label be the ones who need nutritional guidance the most?

The message is clear, whatever label it’s given. Whatever you’re cooking, fresh ingredients will always trump processed foods.

The daily recommendations for adults are 70g fat, 20g saturated fat, 90g sugar and 6g salt per day.

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