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UK fast food peppered with salt

Probe reveals 'shockingly high levels'

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A probe into the culinary offerings of the UK's favourite fast food restaurants has found "shockingly high levels of salt in some family, individual, and children's meal options", which in many cases could result in kids receiving well over their maximum daily recommended limit in just one sitting.

That's according to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which surveyed a total of "346 individual food and drink items and 264 advertised meal combinations" from Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut.

CASH cites the example of a family of four tucking into Pizza Hut's Cheesy Bites Meat Feast, one Medium Pan Super Supreme, one Garlic Bread, one Potato Wedges, one Saucy Chicken Wings (Buffalo), and four individual Madagasca Vanilla Cheesecakes. They would, the organisation claims, cop a whopping 12.3g of salt each - "over twice the recommended daily maximum limit for an adult (6g), and almost two and a half times the limit for a seven to 10 year old (5g) in one meal".

Were a six-year-old to participate in this orgy of sodium, he or she could be absorbing "over four times their daily limit (3g)", CASH adds.

Down at KFC, meanwhile, a Deluxe Boneless Box "shared between four could contain 5.2g of salt per person", which is "almost a whole day's salt limit for an adult and over the recommended maximum daily limit for a child".

Menus aimed specifically at kids fared little better. CASH probed 21 such menu items and 48 meal combinations. It reports: "The salt content of the meal combinations varied from 4.3g of salt in a Pizza Hut children's meal (nearly 50 per cent more than the 3g upper daily limit for a child of four to six years) to 0.6g in a McDonald's Happy Meal of chicken nuggets and a fruit bag."

CASH researcher Carrie Bolt said: "While we acknowledge that there are low salt options available at some fast food outlets, the likelihood is that most children going to McDonald's or Burger King will ask for a burger or chicken nuggets and fries. If they are taken to KFC they will want chicken and fries, and at Pizza Hut will choose pizza.

"We found that a children's burger meal contains around 1.9g salt, equivalent to around two-thirds of the upper limit of salt intake for children aged four to six years (3g). A typical chicken nugget meal contains around 1.5g and a typical children’s Pizza Hut pizza meal contains 2.3g."

Bolt continued: "We are concerned that Pizza Hut and KFC provide no information in the restaurant at point of sale to tell parents how much salt is in the food. There is no way for people to make informed choices before they buy.

"We are pleased that McDonald's have labelling on their packaging and that Burger King provides leaflets giving the amount of sodium per portion. It is also true that all four outlets surveyed had information on their websites, but we would like to see all fast food outlets displaying nutritional information where people make their food choices."

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH and professor of Cardiovascular Medicine from the Medical School at St George's Hospital, London, said: "It is over four years since the maximum daily limits for salt were established for adults and children, and yet this survey shows that the salt levels in some of these meals are staggeringly high.

"Pizza Hut's own website states that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day and children less, so how can these companies justify selling food that contains more than the maximum daily limit for adults and children in a single meal?"

CASH's full press release is available here (Word doc). It has an (Excel) summary of the meals tested here, and a breakdown of all individual food items probed here (also Excel). ®

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