The eating out sector has been accused of making “dismal” progress when it comes to reducing the amount of sale in children’s meals.
Action on Salt, based at Queen Mary University of London, said its tests revealed “astonishingly high amounts of salt” in meals, despite calls for change following similar analysis in 2015.
Of the 351 meals surveyed by the group 41% were found to be high in salt, containing more than 1.8g per portion.
The worst offender of those examined was TGI Fiday’s chicken burger with crispy fries and baked beans, which contained 5.3g of salt per person – almost as much salt as an adult’s recommended daily limit and the equivalent of more than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.
Other high salt offenders were Wetherspoon’s fish, chips and baked beans (4.9g); Chiquito’s quesadilla pizza with baked beans (4.3g); Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s junior cheeseburger with skinny fries (4.3g) and Pizza Hut’s big heroes chicken and cheese wrap with fries (4.07g).
In response Action on Salt is calling for high salt warning labels to be added to children’s menu dishes with more than 1.8g of salt per serve.
Katharine Jenner, nutritionist and campaign director of Action on Salt, said: “As a parent, it is so hard to try and find food and drink products that are both nutritionally balanced and appeal to your kids. Children aged four to six should have half as much salt as an adult – just 3g – a day maximum yet they are eating much more than this. These food companies have known for years that they need to reduce salt, yet they are neglecting to do their civic duty and are putting our children’s health at risk.”
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chair of Action on Salt, added: “The Secretary of State for Health has promised long awaited new voluntary salt reduction plans in his green paper by Easter 2019, and they can’t come soon enough. Reducing salt is a shared responsibility between the food industry, individuals and the government and is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from entirely unnecessary strokes and heart disease.
“We’ve already seen the success of the UK’s previous work on salt reduction and we encourage the Secretary to mandate his plans, formalising them and helping to ensure progress is sustained, with huge cost savings to the NHS.”