Campaigners are calling for restaurants to add a warning label to children’s meals which are high in salt.
Action on Salt, a group based at Queen Mary University of London, wants to see high salt warning labels on children’s dishes with more than 1.8g of salt per serving - the 2017 salt target for out of home children’s meals set by Public Health England. It follows laboratory tests on over 350 meals served in high street chains found 41% were high in salt, with more than 1.8g per portion.
The group claims that if coded labels used in supermarkets were used in the OOH sector, these meals would have a red label for their high salt content.
The maximum recommended daily amount of salt for children age 1 to 3 years is 2g, 4 to 6 years is 3g and 7 to 10 years is 5g.
According to the research, the worst offender for salt content was TGI Friday’s chicken burger with crispy fries and baked beans with 5.3g per portion – almost as much salt as an adult’s recommended daily limit of salt (6g) and equivalent to more than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.
Wetherspoon’s fish, chips and baked beans was the second highest with 4.9g of salt per portion. However, fish and chips from Slug and Lettuce came out the least saltiest with 0.3g of salt per serving.
When the data was compared with that from the same dishes in 2015, 39% have achieved a reduction in salt content, 20% have seen no change in salt content and 40% have increased in salt.
The research also claims that many of the meals are packed with excessive calories and fat. For example, Hungry Horse large double cheesy burger with fries and baked beans has 1054 kcal per portion, more than half the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult. It would take an 8-year-old eight hours of swimming to burn off the Hungry Horse meal combo.
ASK Italian margherita pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese has 19.9g saturated fat per portion, an adult woman’s maximum recommended daily intake and 2.5 times more than Pizza Hut’s big heroes pan pizza margherita topped with pepperoni, sliced ham and chicken with fries with 8g per portion.
Mhairi Brown, nutritionist at Action on Salt, explained: “Protecting children’s health should be a priority for all food and drink companies - the out of home sector must act now and take salt off the menu for children.”
Zoe Davies, nutritionist for Action on Salt and FoodSwitch, added: “Thankfully, many products in supermarkets display colour-coded front of pack nutrition labels which allows consumers to take personal responsibility and use apps, such as the free FoodSwitch app, to compare products and find the healthier option. It’s time for the out of home sector to take responsibility and offer us the same level of information.”
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