An Epsom restauranter has defended the UK's favourite dish - chicken tikka massala - after it was slammed in a national report for containing 'shocking' levels of fat and colourings.
The report by the all party Local Government Group (LGG) analysed food from 223 takeaways across England and Wales, found that one portion of chicken tikka masala and pilau rice contained 116 per cent of a person's guideline daily amount of saturated fat and 92 per cent of salt.
The report also found illegally high levels of certain colourings in the dish which the Food Standards Agency wants to ban because of their negative effects on children.
Enam Ali MBE, owner of Le Raj in Epsom and founder of The British Curry Awards, appeared on BBC News earlier this month defending Indian restaurants from the report and championing his own, beetroot-based colouring.
Mr Ali believes the report is not representative with less than 1 per cent of restaurants using artificial colourings.
Mr Ali said: "We don’t believe the LGG report contains statistics which justify magnifying this issue out of proportion.
"It would have been more helpful to have started to work with restaurants to persuade them to make a change, than to demonise Britain’s most popular dish in this way."
In 2002 Le Raj launched a campaign in association with Surrey Trading Standards and celebrity TV chef James Martin to promote the use of Mr Ali’s signature beetroot colouring as an alternative to artificial colourings in the chicken tikka masala.
He added: "We need to get across to the public that red is not always best and that curry dishes can be just as tasty if the cook sticks to legal levels of artificial colourings, or uses organic alternatives like beetroot."
Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Regulation Board, said: "We are not looking to demonise particular popular dishes, but we remain committed to supporting consumers who want to be sure that their takeaways are at the very least safe to eat and a true reflection of what's on the menu.
"People should be able to make informed decisions about the food they eat and hopefully this research will inspire takeaways to follow the lead taken in other parts of the food industry and make their product more healthy."