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CASH criticises pub and restaurant chains over high salt levels in kids' meals

15 June 2012
CASH criticises pub and restaurant chains over high salt levels in kids' meals

Health body Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has criticised several pub and restaurant chains for the high level of salt in their children's meals.

A report by CASH found that Nando's and JD Wetherspoon each had a children's meal with three times as much salt as a McDonald's Happy Meal of a hamburger and fries (1.6g).

A child's salt Guidelines Daily Amount (GDA) is 4g for an entire day.

Five of the highest main meals (including side dishes) found were at the following outlets:

â- Wetherspoon's: Wiltshire cured ham and cheese sandwich (served with chips) - 4.8g salt
â- Harvester: gammon and chicken combo with mashed potato and beans - 4.3g salt
â- Sizzling Pub Co: 4oz gammon with mash and beans - 4.1g salt
â- Wetherspoon's: chicken breast nuggets with chips and baked beans - 4.0g salt

CASH said it found huge variations in meals, even at the same restaurants. However, with no nutritional information on the menus it is impossible for parents to make a healthier choice for their children.

It cited the example of Wetherspoon's, which offers ham and cheese sandwich with chips, containing 4.8g of salt, while on the same menu also offering a much healthier Annabel Karmel spaghetti bolognese, the lowest meal found in the survey, containing just 0.1g of salt.

Sizzling Pub Co offers gammon with mash and beans at 4.1g of salt, while also offering a meal with just a quarter of the salt (0.8g) - a chicken breast with a jacket boat and peas.

Desserts were also found to be surprising sources of hidden salt, with five desserts found to contain the same amount of salt as a packet of crisps - or even more. For example, an ice-cream with chocolate sauce from Sizzling Pub Co contains 0.7g of salt per portion (18% GDA).

The five main meals with the lowest salt content (including side dishes) found were at the following outlets;
â- Wetherspoon's: Annabel Karmel spaghetti bolognese - 0.1g salt
â- McDonald's: 4 piece chicken nuggets and fruit bag - 0.4g salt
â- Wimpy: fish bites with salad - 0.5g salt
â- Hungry Horse: four cod fish fingers and jacket potato with peas/corn/salad - 0.73g salt
â- KFC: kids' popcorn chicken with corn cobette - 0.78g salt

Katharine Jenner, campaign director of CASH, 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."

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: "We take on board the findings of the report.

"We aim to provide a range of children's meals and these feature varying salt levels. We are reviewing how we can reduce the salt levels on the two meals indicated.

"We provide all of the salt level figures in a leaflet available in all pubs and on our website, along with full nutritional information.

"It is encouraging that our best-selling children's dish, spaghetti bolognese, was found to have the lowest levels of salt (0.1g salt) of any children's meal in the report."

A spokeswoman for Harvester and Sizzling Pubs said: "Families eat out with us for an occasion or treat and not on a daily basis. Harvester and Sizzling Pubs children's menus provide choice, encourage children to eat vegetables and promote the importance of a balanced diet. On both menus lower salt dishes are available as well as a choice of vegetables, salads and jacket potatoes."

By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

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