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Salt levels in fast food ‘substantially’ higher in Canada: report

TORONTO – Canadians grabbing dinner at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and other fast food joints are eating “substantially” higher levels of salt compared to the same fat-laden foods in other countries, new global research suggests.

An international team of scientists from as far as Australia, New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom and the United States collaborated with Canada in a global study analyzing the salt content of more than 2,100 fast food items on the menus of six major companies – McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway.

The items included breakfast, burgers, chicken products, pizza, sandwiches, French fries and even salads.

Results varied across the board, which led the researchers to say that they saw a “substantial variation” in the average salt content for different categories of products.

While fast food isn’t the most nutritious choice, the researchers say the meals in Canada and the United States contained “much higher” levels of sodium compared to the same food in the U.K. and France.

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Chicken McNuggets, for example, contain two and half times the amount of sodium – 600 mg or 1.5 grams of salt per 100 gram servings – compared to only 240 mg of sodium or 0.6 grams of salt per 100 gram servings in the U.K.
Salads in fast food joints in Canada, by far, provided the highest salt content, the researchers told Global National.

“What we really found was that several of the fast food [items] in Canada has the highest, if not closest to the highest, or very close to the highest amount of salt in their foods,” according to Dr. Norman Campbell, a coauthor who teaches at the University of Calgary.

“No one was close to us in the amount of salt we add to fries in fast food. And sandwiches – on three out of seven food categories, we were by far the highest,” he told Global National.

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Too much salt intake has been linked to high blood pressure and other health concerns. On average, Canadians consume about 3,400 mg of sodium a day but 1,500 mg should be the adequate amount. About 2,300 mg – about a teaspoon of salt – is considered the upper limit.

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Campbell says Canadians should call on Ottawa to regulate salt. In other countries, including the U.K., Finland and Japan, salt reduction efforts have forced companies to label ingredients in food.

“Health is not a food company responsibility. It’s one of the mandates we gave our federal government. Our federal government had advocated this responsibility for health and the safety of the food source back to the food industry and that’s clearly inappropriate and is not going to work,” Campbell said.

The report insists that widespread reformulation of products to decrease salt can be introduced over several years.

Health Canada has chaired the Sodium Working Group, which has released guidelines on how much salt Canadians should be consuming, but its full recommendations haven’t been implemented.

The complete findings were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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