Some meals at popular fast food chains contain ‘shockingly high’ salt levels, a new study claims.
The worst options contain more than double a child’s recommended daily salt intake in a single meal, according to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash).
Pizza Hut served up the saltiest meals of the four fast food chains surveyed.
A family of four sharing one Pizza Hut ‘meal deal’ would each eat 12.3g of salt – nearly 2.5 times the recommended daily maximum for seven to ten-year-olds.
KFC, McDonalds and Burger King
Cash researchers surveyed 346 individual food and drink items and 264 advertised meal combinations at Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King.
Of these, 21 menu items and 48 meal combinations were aimed specifically at children.
The saltiest children’s meal deal was a Pizza Hut kids’ chicken ‘wrap factory’ plus soft drink at 4.3g of salt per portion – 142% of a four to six-year-old’s daily maximum. A KFC kids’ mini fillet burger meal was the second saltiest children’s option at 3.5g per portion.
The Pizza Hut ‘pizza plus’ meal for four worked out as having the highest salt content per person per portion at 12.3g.
A different variation of food items in a Pizza Hut meal deal for four people of the same name worked out at 12g of salt per portion.
A pair of Pizza Hut meals for one – its ‘meat feast Italian pizza plus’ and ‘Mediterranean meat feast Italian pizza plus’ both had 9.7g of salt per portion.
KFC’s variety meal was fifth on the Cash list of saltiest meals at 6.3g of salt per portion.
The children’s meal with the lowest salt content was a McDonald’s Happy Meal of chicken nuggets and a fruit bag at just 0.6g.
The majority of advertised standard sized meal deals at Burger King and KFC had lower levels of salt than the least salty options advertised by Pizza Hut.
All of the McDonald’s standard sized meal deals had lower levels of salt than the pizza chain’s meals.
Commenting on the findings, Cash chairman Professor Graham MacGregor 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.’
Cash warned parents that milkshakes, cheesecake and muffins could also contain hidden salt.
Too much salt
Eating too much salt is linked to increased blood pressure which in turn can cause strokes and heart attacks.
The recommended maximum daily intake for salt is 6g for adults; 5g per day for children aged seven to 10; 3g per day for four to six-year-olds and 2g per day for one to three-year-olds.
A Pizza Hut spokesman said: ‘As well as focusing on our most indulgent products, this report also contains many factual inaccuracies.Every sensible parent knows that Pizza Hut is an enjoyable treat and we have significantly reduced the salt levels in our products over the past few years.’
A KFC spokesman said: ‘We have had a salt reduction programme in place for several years now and have reduced salt by up to 30% across our product range.We were the first – and remain the only – fast food chain to have removed salt from our fries, leaving customers to choose whether they want to add salt or not.’
British Heart Foundation policy officer Alex Callaghan said: ‘Fast-food restaurants must start taking some responsibility and act now by reducing salt levels in meals and providing nutritional information at point of sale.’
Burger King said in a statement: ‘We are pleased that Burger King has come out favourably in this report as we are committed to ensuring all our food is of the highest quality and care about what goes into our menu choices.’
A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the chain has already reduced salt levels in many of its products.
She added: ‘Whilst we welcome the findings of the Cash survey inasmuch as many of products are shown to be lower in salt content than our competitors, where we do find the survey quite misleading is that the report talks of a child’s daily salt limit in relation to menu items such as the Big Mac and quarter pounder with cheese, which are adult food items.’
Which? is running a Kids’ Food campaign calling for more responsible marketing of food to kids.
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