Extra value means extra salt in U.S. and Canada

Photo by Calgary Reviews via Flickr

International fast-food chains vary their menus to meet local tastes and preferences, along with food laws and dietary regulations. Who knew, though, that something as simple as salt content in the same item from the same chain varies widely across industrialized nations? As NPR’s food blog summarizes the findings of a newly published study,

The McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets in the United States have more than twice as much salt as their sister nuggets in the United Kingdom. That’s 1.6 grams of salt for every 100 grams of American nugget, compared to 0.6 grams in the U.K. You could say Americans are getting more for their money. You could also say they’re getting more high blood pressure and premature death. McNuggets sold in Canada were about as salty as those in the U.S., while Australian, French, and Kiwi nuggets had significantly less salt, but not as little as in the U.K. That may be because the United Kingdom has set voluntary limits on salt in processed food, according to [study lead author] Elizabeth Dunford.

As Reuters reports, study coauthor Norman Campbell

said the study was not an attack on the fast food industry, noting that country-to-country variations are seen in packaged food and heavy salt use is not unique to fast food. In the United states, it’s estimated that almost 80 percent of people’s sodium intake comes not from their salt shakers, but from the salt that food makers add to their products. Campbell argued that it’s up to governments to rein in sodium levels in the food supply and that a structured, voluntary approach, where the government works with industry to set lower targets, is probably the most feasible.

For additional details, like how much salt may be lurking even in fast-food salads, check out the links above or read the original article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (which NPR unfortunately misattributes).

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