Number 147 May 1998
MAFF UK - NUTRIENT ANALYSIS OF ETHNIC TAKEAWAY FOODS
Index to MAFF UK Food Surveillance Information
23: MAFF UK -
Analytical Survey of Meat Products (January 1994)
37: MAFF UK - Survey of "Ethnic Foods"
for Mycotoxins (September 1994)
MAFF UK - Nutrient Analysis of Retail Cuts of Lamb (February 1995)
68: MAFF UK - Nutrient Analysis of Pizzas
69: MAFF UK -
Nutrient Analysis of Chicken & Turkey (July 1995)
70: MAFF UK - Nutrient Analysis of
Selected Foods (July 1995)
MAFF has carried out a survey to determine the nutrient composition of a
selection of ethnic takeaway foods (including Indian, Chinese, Mexican and Thai
dishes) purchased from a variety of ethnic takeaway establishments and
restaurants with takeaway facilities.
Ethnic meals are a popular food choice when eating out. In 1996, the
average consumption of ethnic foods eaten outside the home, as recorded in the
National Food Survey was 32g per person per week and was highest in the 25-34
year age group (52g per person per week)1. As
ethnic foods have become an important part of the UK diet, it is important that
information is available on the nutrient composition of such foods. This
survey, which forms part of MAFF's ongoing surveillance of nutrient levels in
food, was commissioned to provide information on the nutrient composition of
ethnic takeaway foods that make the largest contribution to nutrient intakes in
The results are being incorporated into MAFF's nutrient databanks for the
National Diet and Nutrition Survey and the National Food Survey, and will also
be incorporated into future publications in the McCance and Widdowson's The
Composition of Foods series.
A total of 360 sub-samples were purchased from Indian, Chinese, Mexican and
Thai takeaways and restaurants and combined into 37 groups for analysis. As
regional variations were expected in the composition of ethnic takeaways,
samples were collected from five regions (London, Manchester, Bristol,
Birmingham and Edinburgh). Because reliable information already exists on the
nutrient composition of many of the accompaniments to the ethnic dishes (e.g.
rice, noodles, side salads, etc.), the proportions of these accompaniments were
weighed and recorded, with analysis carried out only on the main dish as listed
in Table 1. Information on the nutrient content of
the accompaniments may be found in McCance and Widdowson's The Composition
Analyses were carried out for a range of nutrients including proximates,
minerals, vitamins, individual sugars and fatty acids. A full list of nutrients
analysed is given in Table 2.
As this is the first time ethnic takeaway foods have been analysed in such
detail by MAFF, it is not possible to comment on any possible trends in nutrient
levels. However, the iron content of some of the Indian dishes was slightly
higher than expected compared with values from similar dishes (recipes from McCance
and Widdowson's 'The Composition of Foods' series) 3,4.
This may be due to the use of cast iron cookware as it has been observed in
other studies that the iron content of a meal can be increased by cooking in
balti woks 5 .
As each of the composite samples was analysed for a broad range of
nutrients, this project generated a large number of individual results. It is
therefore not practical to attach a full set of these results to this
information sheet. The full results are, however, included in the survey
report, which is available through the MAFF Library at Nobel House (see
contact point, below).
Surveillance for nutrients has different aims to surveillance for other
chemicals in food. For example, surveillance for chemical contaminants often
aims to identify the range of levels of contaminant in a type of food, or to see
whether any differences in the levels of contaminant are related to the
provenance of raw materials or to food production methods. In these cases it is
important to know information on the origin of each sample, such as its brand
The primary use of these survey results is, in combination with data on what
people eat from dietary surveys, to estimate the nutrient intake of individuals
and groups of the population. Therefore, nutrient surveys need to provide a
single, robust set of nutrient values that is indicative of the potentially
broad choice available to the consumer when selecting any particular type of
food. The precise origin of each individual sub-sample in a nutrient survey is
not important - it is more important to ensure that these sub-samples cover an
appropriate cross-section of the available products. These sub-samples are then
grouped on the basis of differences between types of food that are likely to be
of nutritional significance.
For these reasons surveys such as this one, where composite samples of
several different brands or from several different suppliers are analysed, are
excluded from MAFF's general policy of naming the products tested in food
surveys when the results are published. Although no samples from individual
shops were analysed in this survey, we have recorded the provenance of each of
the sub-samples that made up the 37 composite samples that were analysed. This
information can be provided on request (see contact point
for general enquiries, below).
- Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (1997). National
Food Survey 1996. The Stationery Office, London.
- Holland, B., Welch, A.A., Unwin, I.D., Buss, D.H., Paul,
A.A. and Southgate, D.A.T.(1991b) McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of
Foods. 5th edition. The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.
- Holland, B., Brown, J., and Buss, D.H. (1993) Fish and
Fish Products. Supplement to McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of
Foods. The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.
- Chan, W., Brown, J., Church, S.M. and Buss, D.H. (1996)
Meat Products and Dishes. Supplement to McCance and Widdowson's The
Composition of Foods. The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.
- Fairweather-Tait, S.J., Fox, T.E., Mallillin, A. Balti
curries and iron. British Medical Journal 1995;310:1368.
The report of this survey is held in the MAFF library at Nobel House. If you
would like to consult or receive a copy please contact:
17 Smith Square,
London SW1P 3JR
+44(0) 171 238 6573
A small charge for photocopying will be made. Other
enquiries should be addressed to:
Mr Steve Wearne
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
Ergon House c/o Nobel House
17 Smith Square
Tel: +44 (0) 171 238 6750
Fax: +44 (0) 171 238 5778
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These pages were last updated on 30th April 1998