WASH concerned by discrepancies in salt content of global brands

Posted by James Ferre on 24th July 2009

New research suggests that the salt content of some popular global brands varies across the world, with some consumers consuming twice as much from the same brand as their counterparts elsewhere in the world.The World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) surveyed over 260 food products available around the world from food manufacturers such as KFC, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Nestle, Burger King and Subway. Not one product surveyed had the same salt content around the world, according to the health advocate, and some displayed huge differences in salt content from one country to another.

Kellogg’s All Bran, for instance, contains 2.15g of salt per 100g in Canada, but only 0.65g of salt per 100g just over the border in the United States, less than a third of the Canadian level. All Bran for sale in the UK contains 1.13g of salt per 100g.

Looking at the salt content for Kellogg’s Cornflakes, the survey found that the Middle East is served the highest salt product at 2.8g of salt per 100g. The lowest salt Kellogg’s Cornflakes surveyed were in Spain, with 1.75g salt per 100g, a gram less than the Middle East’s level of 2.8g salt per 100g. The UK gets Kellogg’s cornflakes with 1.8g of salt per 100g.

A Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburger bought in Brazil contains 3.2g of salt, while one bought in the UK contains much less at 2.1g of salt per burger.

There is even variation in the McDonald’s iconic Big Mac: In Cyprus it contains 2.0g of salt while in Guatemala it contains around a third more salt at 2.7g.

A KFC Original Fillet Burger in New Zealand contains 3.7g of salt per while the same product in neighbouring Australia has 2.4g of salt. And Nestlé’s Fitness cereal has 2.1g of salt per 100g in Colombia, while across Europe consumers can eat the same product with only 1.3g of salt per 100g.

“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide,” Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of WASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, noted. “Eating too much salt puts up our blood pressure, the major risk factor of CVD. This leads to millions needlessly suffering and dying from heart attacks, heart failure and strokes each year. If we reduce our salt intake by just a few grammes a day, we can all reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke.”

“The fact that companies distribute products with so much less salt in some countries raises serious ethical concerns. It is very hypocritical for manufacturers to make healthy claims about their products whilst unnecessarily adding to worldwide health inequalities. A gradual reduction in salt can easily be done across all products in all countries. We urge all manufacturers to make these reductions not just in a few fortunate countries, but across the world.”

WASH has welcomed recent commitments by some of the world’s leading manufacturers to cut the salt content of their products, but maintain that more needs to be done – starting with county-to-country consistency.