Fast food pushes salt consumption to unsafe levels

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Results of a new survey show that many fast food meals contain far more salt than the government’s recommended daily maximum.

Published 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.

The salt in meals from fast food chains is a major contributor to premature death and disability in Australia. 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 a shocking 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,” says AWASH Chair, Professor Bruce Neal.

Most Australians eat dangerously high levels of salt which has serious consequences for health. The majority of salt in the diet comes from processed and pre-prepared foods. Many Australians are currently eating around 9 grams of salt a day.

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 contained over 5 grams of salt.

Says Caitlin, “Many consumers think they are being health conscious by ordering what they perceive to be healthy lunch options, but they don’t realise the amount of salt their choices contain. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, soups and risottos are just some of the many ‘healthy’ takeaway options that can contain alarmingly high amounts of salt”.

Says Professor Neal: “The Drop the Salt! campaign is putting pressure on the food industry to reduce salt in foods. City workers can help by asking how much salt is in their lunch and asking for a low salt option. The Salt and the City event will review what further action needs to be taken.

Source: Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, Australia

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