‘Family-friendly’ eateries creating a generation of salt addicts

>> A new study claims children’s meals served in ‘family friendly’ eateries STILL contain worryingly high levels of salt.

Action group CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) claims over a quarter of meals (28%) containing 2g or more of salt per meal. For a 1-3 year-old, that’s their maximum recommended intake for a whole day and more salt than the equivalent of four packets of crisps.

In comparison, for a child aged 4-6 years, three quarters of the meals (74%) contain a third or more of their current maximum daily recommended intake of salt (3g – 1⁄2 teaspoon).

The survey, which is the first to analyse the salt content of 218 children’s meals from 23 different eating establishments, revealed the top salty offenders include:
• Burger King Kid’s Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries: 4.6g salt per serving (155% of 4-6 year-olds maximum recommended intake.)
• Hungry Horse Pic ‘n’ Mix Large Ham (2 slices) with Mashed Potato and Baked Beans: 4.2g salt per serving (141% of 4-6 year-olds maximum recommended intake)
• Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill Bangers and Mash with Gravy: 4.0g salt per serving (135% of 4-6 year-olds maximum recommended intake)
• Beefeater Mr Noisy’s Bangers and Mash with Peas and Gravy: 3.9g salt per serving (130% of 4-6 year-olds maximum recommended intake)
• Bella Italia Pizza Dog from the Piccolo Menu & Cheesy Garlic Bread: 3.7g salt per serving (124% of 4-6 year-olds maximum recommended intake)

Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at CASH, said: “We are all eating too much salt and it’s a scandal that very few restaurants are taking salt reduction seriously – especially when the health of our children is at risk. Our survey has shown us that many restaurants have done little to reduce the salt content in their dishes, especially those targeting kids. The targets set by the Department of Health are a perfect opportunity for restaurants to show their commitment to the health of their customers. More needs to be done and action taken now.”

Latest figures by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) show children aged 4-18 years are currently consuming more salt than the recommendations set by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) back in 2003. CASH argue that the recommendations for children are far too high, and that evidence shows children would benefit, throughout
their lifetime, from much lower salt intakes.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH, added: “Evidence suggests dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns later in life. Salt should therefore not be given to children as this could lead to a ‘salt addiction’ – a preference for salt throughout their lifetime. This will consequently raise their blood pressure which tracks into adulthood, leading to increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks. Yet the recommendations suggest it is safe for a child of 4 to eat half a teaspoon (3g) of salt a day! The evidence should be reviewed by the Department of Health immediately and a new, lower recommendation set for children.”