Fast-food restaurants scrutinised over salt levels

Posted by Editorial on 5th February 2009

A new survey has put the spotlight on fast food meals, with many reportedly containing more salt than the government’s recommended daily maximum.

Published today by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH), the survey reviewed salt levels in a range of foods sold by six major fast food chains (KFC, Hungry Jack’s, Oporto, Red Rooster, Subway and McDonald’s). Most products contained excessive quantities of salt, they said.

Three quarters of the sandwiches and burgers surveyed contained more than half the maximum daily allowance of salt in a single serve. Government advice is that people should eat no more than 4 grams of salt a day with an upper maximum limit of 6 grams. One chicken and chips meal contained an alarming 7 grams of salt.

“There is an unacceptable level of salt in popular fast foods. Companies have responded well to government pressure to rid food of problem fats but salt levels remain very high. Urgent action is required to reduce salt in these foods,” AWASH Chair, Professor Bruce Neal, said.

Most Australians eat dangerously high levels of salt – many consume around 9 grams a day – which can have serious consequences for health. The majority of salt in the diet comes from processed and pre-prepared foods, AWASH suggested.

But it’s not just the major fast food chains that are the culprits. At the ‘Salt and the City’ event, hosted by AWASH in Sydney today, Caitlin Reid, author of the forthcoming book ‘Health and the City’, highlighted the fact that meals in many of the city’s other popular lunch spots can also be very high in salt. For example, one innocent sounding ham, cheese and tomato sandwich roll from a leading salad chain reportedly contained over 5 grams of salt. The event is part of the “Drop the Salt!” campaign, which is hoping to convince more food industry participants to commit to reducing the salt levels of the food they provide.