Major restaurants' children's meals contain a whole day's salt – and are putting their health at risk
23:08 GMT, 13 June 2012
Major restaurant and pub chains are serving children’s meals with more salt than youngsters should consume in an entire day.
Campaigners say the likes of Nando’s, J D Wetherspoon and Harvester are putting children’s health at risk.
Doctors, the Department of Health and the Government’s Food Standards Agency have already warned that the nation is overdosing on salt.
Health risk Children's meals at McDonalds contain less salt than a Wetherspoon's ham and cheese sandwich with chips
Consuming high levels over many years is linked to raised blood pressure and a heightened risk of stroke, kidney disease and early death.
The recommended daily salt intake for children is 4g. However, researchers discovered that children’s meals can include up to 5.3g – which is about the weight of a 20p piece – as found in a veggie burger with creamy mash sold by Nando’s.
A ham and cheese sandwich with chips sold by Wetherspoon’s included 4.8g, while its chicken nuggets with chips and baked beans had 4g. A gammon and chicken combo with mashed potato and beans from Harvester contained 4.3g of salt.
The figures were collated by the campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health, which wants restaurants, manufacturers and supermarkets to cut down on salt. Its campaign director Katharine Jenner said: ‘Children’s meals should provide tasty and healthy alternatives to more adult dishes.
‘It is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk.’
Professor Graham MacGregor, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, added: ‘Salt addiction starts in childhood and can lead to serious health issues in later life. Parents are doing their best, but with the food industry continuing to put huge levels of salt in our food without any information on the menu, our children remain at risk.’
Vital statistics: Campaigners CASH collated these figures to show which restaurants serve the saltiest children's food
Although the lowest salt content came in a dish from Wetherspoon’s – spaghetti bolognese with 0.1g – fast-food chains fared relatively well.
A McDonald’s meal of four chicken nuggets and a fruit bag had just 0.4g of salt; Wimpy’s fish bites with salad had 0.5g; and a KFC kids’ popcorn chicken portion with corn cobette had 0.78g.
The CASH research found that five desserts contained the same or more salt as a packet of crisps, including an ice cream with chocolate sauce from the Sizzling Pub Co. The chain is understood to be revamping its menu and recipes, and Wetherspoon’s spokesman Eddie Gershon confirmed his company would do the same.
‘We aim to provide a range of children’s meals and these feature varying salt levels,’ he said. ‘We are reviewing how we can reduce the salt levels on the two meals indicated.’
Nando’s said it would begin a trial of new children’s meals this month, including a veggie burger with 66 per cent less salt.
A spokesman for the Mitchells & Butler group, which owns Harvester and the Sizzling Pub Co, said: ‘Menus provide choice, encourage children to eat vegetables and promote the importance of a balanced diet. On both menus lower salt dishes are available.’