07 Mar 2019

Action on Salt is calling for ‘high salt’ warning labels on children’s menus by Easter 2019

A new nationwide product survey by Action on Salt, the expert group based at Queen Mary University of London, has exposed the astonishingly high amounts of salt found in children’s out-of-home meals, demonstrating the dismal progress made by the sector following a similar survey carried out in 2015.

Of the 351 meals surveyed, of which 12 were sent for laboratory analysis, 41% (i.e. 145) were high in salt, with more than 1.8g of salt per portion. The worst offender for salt content was TGI Friday’s Chicken burger with crispy fries and baked beans with 5.3g/portion – containing almost as much salt as an adult’s recommended daily limit (6g) and the equivalent to more than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.

2015 vs 2019 salt comparison

29% of the 218 meals surveyed in 2015 had 2g of salt or more per portion (i.e. the maximum recommended intake for 1- to 3-year-olds) compared to 37% of the 351 meals surveyed in 2019. Of the dishes that appear in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, 39% have achieved a reduction in salt content, 20% have seen no change and a worrying 40% have increased in salt.

Mhairi Brown, Nutritionist at Action on Salt explains:

“This survey highlights the shocking levels of salt still present in many children’s meals, even though it is well known that dietary habits formed in childhood influences what you eat for the rest of your life. 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.”

As part of Salt Awareness Week (4–10 March 2019), Action on Salt is calling for ‘high salt’ warning labels on children’s menus, plus ambitious salt reduction plans from the Secretary of State for Health by Easter 2019.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chair of Action on Salt, adds:

“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.”