Fast food salt levels vary between North America and Europe

April 17, 2012 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends, Nutrition Topics in the News

Fast food salt levels vary between North America and Europe

Technical issues are often cited as barriers to salt reduction initiatives. But based on new study findings, this should not be the case. The study, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, has revealed that salt levels in fast foods sold by 6 major companies vary considerably, indicating that technical issues to reduce sodium are not the problem.

Salt content of 2,124 food items in 7 product categories: French fries, burgers, pizza, salads, savory breakfast items, chicken products and sandwiches - from 6 companies - were examined by researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and France.

The following companies were examined: Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Burger King (known as Hungry Jack's in Australia), Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Consuming too much salt can cause higher blood pressure, as well as other adverse health effects. According to estimates, a significant number of deaths could be prevented by reducing salt intake and salt reduction efforts have been enforced in several countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan and Finland.

Furthermore, recent voluntary salt reduction targets in place, or labeling for some types of food, have been successful. According to the researchers, technical food processing issues have been cited by food companies as barriers in lowering salt content, claiming that new technology and processes are required in order to produce lower-salt products.

The researchers found that between countries salt levels in similar foods varied considerably, with fast foods in the UK and France containing significantly lower levels of salt than in Canada and the United States.

In the UK, McDonald's Chicken McNuggets contained 240 mg sodium per 100 g in servings vs. 600 mg per 100 g serving in Canada.

The researchers saw marked variability in the reported salt content of products provided by major transnational fast food companies. Canadian companies indicate they have been working to reduce sodium but the high sodium in these foods indicates voluntary efforts aren't working. The research team stated the high levels indicate failure of the current government approach that leaves salt reduction solely in the hands of industry.

According to the researchers, this is an opportunity for extensive reformulation of products to contain lower levels of sodium. In addition, this change could be gradually introduced over several years, in order to keep consumer backlash to a minimum.

The researchers concluded decreasing salt in fast food appears to be technically feasible and is likely to produce important health gains on a population level.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.