Salt levels in fast food varies between countries

It’s pretty common knowledge that the salt content in fast food is high, but new research shows that the exact level varied between countries, even if it’s the same chain.

Researchers compared the same food items, bought in six different countries, and found that overall the UK foods had less salt that the US and Canada, and Australia was somewhere in the middle.

They bought foods like McDonald’s nuggets, burgers and pizza from global chains to conduct their research.

In the UK, McDonald’s nuggets had 240mg, or 0.6 grams of salt per serving, compared with 1.7 grams – which equates to 600 milligrams – found in the same item sold in the US.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Heart Foundation advise the average person should limit their salt consumption to about 2000 mg, or 4 to 6 grams per day, so depending what people in the US pair their nuggets with – salty fries, for example – they could be at risk of consuming more than half their recommended daily salt intake in just one meal.

Most people in Australia today consume eight to twelve grams of salt each day, mostly from processed foods.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that while most Australian fast-food options are somewhere in the middle of the salty US options and less salty UK variations, we do have one burger on offer which tips the scales in all the wrong ways, according to lead author Elizabeth Dunford, a PhD student at theGeorge Institute in Sydney.

Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double Whopper has 6.3 grams, or 6300 milligrams, of salt in each serve, almost triple the recommended daily salt intake.

Closely following that is the Burger King Angus bacon and cheese burger from Burger King in the US, which contains 5.2 grams of salt per serve.

This week a study was published which found the chances of a child being obese greatly depends on their neighbourhood, while earlier this month other researchers discovered that a “low salt” label on food will make a consumer experience a decreased level of taste, even if it is not in fact any lower in salt than other varieties.

High consumption of salt has been proven to raise blood pressure, increase the chances of diabetes and stroke, and cause weight gain.

The Heart Foundation, doctors and health organisations are constantly recommending low-salt diets to improve health and life expectancy.

"The main outcome of high salt is high blood pressure levels and that is the leading risk factor for cardio vascular disease and stroke, which is the number one cause of death in Australia," Dunford said.

Only last week there were fresh calls for a “fat tax” in Australia, following its introduction in Sweden and the UK, and Dunford believes part of the reason for the lower salt content in food bought in the UK is the awareness of fat and salt on health.

"We think the reason for [the low salt levels in the UK] is that they have a national salt reduction campaign," she said.

"In Australia we started that process with some processed foods, but we’re a little behind in other foods.

“We’re heading in the right direction."

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