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article imageReport: Fast food in U.S. and Canada has highest levels of salt

By Leigh Goessl     Apr 23, 2012 in Food
Fast food is high in sodium, and new research indicates how much sodium is in fast food may depend on what region it was sold in.
According to a study released last week, how much salt in fast-food you consume varies in location.
Reuters reported researchers examined the same fast-food menu items in six different countries, using data from a survey taken in April 2010. Scientific American reported food items from popular fast-food chains, such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Domino's, Pizza Hut and Subway, were examined.
Researchers found the levels of salt in some food items were different, depending upon which country it was consumed in. When researchers examined the menus in the different nations, they discovered the same food item varied in levels of salt, depending on the menu.
Of the six, fast-food outlets in the U.K. were noted to have lower levels of sodium in take-out food items, such as pizza or chicken nuggets. France, New Zealand, and Australia fell in the middle range, while the U.S. and Canada were on the higher end.
Researchers said of their findings, "We also saw variability between countries: chicken products from the UK contained 1.1 g of salt per 100 g, whereas chicken products from the US contained 1.8 g. Furthermore, the mean salt content of food categories varied between companies and between the same products in different countries (e.g., McDonald's Chicken McNuggets contain 0.6 g of salt per 100 g in the UK, but 1.6 g of salt per 100 g in the US)."
Reuters notes the lower U.K. sodium levels are likely due to initiatives to reduce sodium overall, writing, "U.K. has set voluntary salt-reduction "targets" for the packaged food industry." While fast-food was not included in this, the industry was represented in the "roundtable discussion" forming the goals and may be adjusting levels in foods.
Despite the varying salt levels from place to place, however, fast food in general still has very high levels of sodium. Researchers also noted that fast food is not the only variation, that convenience packaged food sodium levels also vary.
Dr. Norman Campbell of the University of Calgary in Canada, who worked on the study, said, "Yes, salt in fast food is very high," he said. "But if you went to an expensive restaurant, the sodium levels would be very high. If you buy packaged foods, the levels would often be very high."
However, while all fast food generally has lots of salt, if you're buying fast food in the U.S. or Canada, chances are you're consuming even more sodium based on this report.
More about United States, Fast food, Canada, Salt, Sodium