New Survey Names and Shames UK’s ‘Saltiest' Family-Friendly Eateries and Warns of a New Generation of ‘Salt Addicts’
16 March 2015
Children’s meals in ‘family friendly’ eateries revealed to STILL contain dangerously high levels of salt - habituating children to the taste of salt
Over a quarter of meals surveyed contain more than 2g of salt per meal - that’s the entire maximum recommendation for a whole day for a 1-3 year old – and more salt than 4 packets of crisps!
Too much salt in childhood puts up blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart failure
Call for the maximum recommendation of salt for children to be lowered
According to a new study1 by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) to launch National Salt Awareness Week 2015 (16 – 22nd March), children’s meals served in ‘family friendly’ eateries STILL contain worryingly high levels of salt – with over a quarter of meals (29%) containing more than 2g of salt per meal. For a 1-3 year old, that’s their maximum recommended intake for a WHOLE DAY2 and more salt than the equivalent of 4 packets of crisps3!
In comparison, for a child aged 4-6 years, three quarters of the meals (74%) contain a third or more of the current maximum daily recommended intake of salt (3g – ½ teaspoon), or 6 packets of crisps.
The survey, which is the first to analyse the salt content of 218 children’s meals from 23 different eating establishments, revealed the top salty offenders include:
Burger King Kid’s Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries: 4.6g salt per serving (155% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake) N.B recently increased from 2.8g salt per 4!!
Hungry Horse Pic ‘n’ Mix Large Ham with Mashed Potato & Baked Beans: 4.2g salt per serving (141% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake) N.B. recently increased from 3.2g salt per serving4
Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill Bangers & Mash with Gravy: 4.0g salt per serving (135% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)
Beefeater Mr Noisy's Bangers and Mash with Peas & Gravy: 3.9g salt per serving (130% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)
Bella Italia Pizza Dog from the Piccolo Menu & Cheesy Garlic Bread: 3.7g salt per serving (124% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)5
As it is estimated that 40% of parents eat out with their children at least once a fortnight6; if a 3 year old child was to dine out on some of the high dishes highlighted above, instead of lower salt options, they would be consuming a whopping 10.5 teaspoons of EXTRA salt per year7!
By switching from a high salt to a low salt meal, parents could give their child nearly 3g less salt in just one meal:
Only 5 of the 23 catering establishments included in the survey (Jamie’s Italian, Subway, Bella Italia, EAT. and JD Wetherspoon) have pledged to reduce salt in their meals by signing up to the salt targets set by the Department of Health, highlighting the distinct lack of commitment to children’s health from the hospitality industry8.
Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at CASH says; “We are all eating too much salt and it’s a scandal that very few restaurants are taking salt reduction seriously - especially when the health of our children is at risk. Our survey has shown us that many restaurants have done little to reduce the salt content in their dishes, especially those targeting kids. The targets set by the Department of Health are a perfect opportunity for restaurants to show their commitment to the health of their customers. More needs to be done and action taken now.”
Latest figures by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) show children aged 4-18 years are currently consuming more salt than the recommendations set by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) back in 2003, with the exception of girls aged 7-109. CASH argue that the recommendations for children are far too high, and that evidence shows children would benefit, throughout their lifetime, from much lower salt intakes10.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH and adds: “Evidence suggests dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns later in life. Salt should therefore not be given to children as this could lead to a ‘salt addiction’ - a preference for salt throughout their lifetime. This will consequently raise their blood pressure which tracks into adulthood, leading to increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks. Yet the recommendations suggest it is safe for a child of 4 to eat half a teaspoon (3g) of salt a day! The evidence should be reviewed by the Department of Health immediately and a new, lower recommendation set for children.”
National Salt Awareness Week 2015 is encouraging everyone to eat less salt and to enjoy the real flavour of food. Despite the UK leading the world in salt reduction we are all still eating too much salt, with a population average intake of 8.1g per day11, much more than the maximum daily recommendation of 6g per day for an adult (about a teaspoon).
A high salt diet can set a child up for raised blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular disease later on in life, and is also linked to a number of other serious health conditions such as stomach cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease. The Department of Health estimates that reducing salt intakes by just 1g - a pinch of salt - would save 4,147 preventable deaths and £288 million to the NHS every year12.
Top 5 questions to ask your waiter when eating out to make your meal less salty:
1. Ask your waiter for ‘less salt please!’ - You wouldn’t expect sugar to be added to your cup of tea, so why should they add salt to your food? This counts for adults too!
2. Ask them to serve salad dressings, sauces or gravy on the side, so you can decide how much to add.
3. Does your meal contain salty ingredients such as olives, capers, anchovies, cheese and cured meats? Ask for less, or better yet replace them with fresh ingredients such as vegetables.
4. Ask if they have nutrition information so you can see exactly which meals are higher in salt (more than 1.8g per serving is ‘high’).
5. Parmesan with your pasta? Say ‘no thanks’!
Notes to editor
1 - Survey details, full data tables are available with this release
The survey looked at 218 children’s main meals from 23 restaurants, pubs, fast food chains and cafes.
NB. Portion sizes differ widely between meals. Where menus provide an option of sides (Harvester, Hungry Horse, Nando’s, Burger King & McDonald’s) only the two combinations with the highest salt and lowest salt value was included in the survey data. These are highlighted as either ‘(HIGH)’ or ‘(LOW)’ in the data spreadsheet. Other combinations are available in store.
CASH collected nutritional information online, in-store or direct from the company [January-March 2015]. Salt content information for Bella Italia, Brewer’s Fayre, Giraffe, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill and TGI Friday were not available online or at request. Therefore on the week commencing 2nd February 2015 CASH staff visited the restaurants and ordered three main meals at random from the children’s menu. The meals were paid for from each restaurant and taken away in containers and delivered to Public Analysts, who analysed the salt (sodium) content of the meals. The results from the Public Analysts are available on request. Meals were analysed at Kent Scientific Services by Public Analyst Jon Griffin, 8 Abbey Wood Road, Kings Hill, Kent, ME19 4YT
CASH recognise that this is a small sample and there is huge variation in restaurant cooking practices of different chefs; however this is an accurate reflection of three meals that three random children would have consumed had they eaten at that restaurant on that day.
2 – Maximum Recommended Salt Intakes
The should eat depends on their age. According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
Salt & Health Report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, 2003
3 – A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.5g of salt
4 – Whilst conducting the survey, nutritional values available online for Hungry Horse and Burger King changed. Copies of pdfs downloaded from the company websites are available on request.
5 – When ordering from Bella Italia, a starter (Cheesy Garlic Bread) was given as part of the children’s meal. Other options are available e.g. ‘Veggie Dippers’ and ‘Slurpy Soup’.
6 - The Soil Association’s Out to Lunch Report
7 – Assuming a 3 year old child ate the maximum recommended intake of salt (2g/day) any other day, but consumed the Burger King Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries twice a month, they would be consuming an additional 5.28g salt per month, totalling a whopping 63.36g more salt a year than required. This is the equivalent of 10.5 teaspoons.
8 - The Department of Health Responsibility Deal Salt Pledges
The Department of Health have set up 2 pledges with specific salt targets. One is aimed for the food industry which looks at 76 food sub categories with targets on a per 100g basis:
The other is aimed primarily for the out of home sector, with maximum per serve targets for 10 of the most popular dishes in the UK, and an additional one for all children’s meals:
9 – The National Diet & Nutrition Survey Report 2012
Results from Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 -2011/2012) - with urinary sodium data for children aged 4-18 years. Mean estimated salt intake for children aged 4-6 years was 3.7g/day. In children aged 7-10 years mean intake was 5.5g/day for boys and 4.6g/day for girls. For 11 – 18 years, mean intakes were 7.1g/day for boys and 6.2g/day for girls. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/310995/NDNS_Y1_to_4_UK_report.pdf
10 - He FJ, MacGregor GA. Importance of salt in determining blood pressure in children: meta-analysis of controlled trials. Hypertension. 2006;48:861–869
11 – The National Diet & Nutrition Survey Report 2011
Assessment of dietary sodium in adults (aged 19 to 64 years) in England, 2011
12 – Department of Health Statistics on Salt Reduction
One of the public health benefits for salt reduction as stated by the Department of Health