- Of all countries surveyed, South Africa’s KFC chicken burger and chips aimed at children had the highest salt content of all kiddies chicken burgers globally, at 2.91g (more than ½ a teaspoon) per meal;
- South Africa was in the top 10 for the saltiest popular kiddies meals globally;
- Eight out of ten (134/163) meals contain more than 1g salt per serving – that’s the maximum recommendation for a meal for a child aged 4-6 years ;
- Too much salt in childhood habituates children to the taste of salt, can increase their blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart failure later in life;
A new 2015 international survey carried out by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) and supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) investigated the salt content of 387 popular kid’s meal combinations . The survey revealed that children are being served worryingly high amounts of salt by popular fast food chains; with 82 percent (134/163) of meals containing more than 1g of salt per dish. That’s more than a child aged 4-6 years old should be eating in one sitting , with some meals containing as much salt as 10 packets of ready salted crisps .
The most worrying finding from a South African perspective is that we feature amongst the top 10 countries for saltiest children’s fast food meals from the 37 countries surveyed globally. A KFC kiddies chicken burger and small chips contain 2.91g of salt – almost the entire daily salt intake recommended for children aged 4 - 6 years. South Africa further has the 3rd saltiest McDonald’s chicken nugget meal out of 29 countries (see Table 2). The survey results are extremely relevant in South Africa where fast food intake is on the rise, with an estimated 1 in 3 adolescents consuming take away meals three times a week.
Table 2: Variation of salt contents of a popular children’s meal around the world - McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets & Fries
With over half of all meals (53 percent) containing more than half a day’s worth of salt for a 4-6 year old (1.5g), WASH is calling for all food manufacturers to universally reduce the salt content of their products, to help us achieve the global maximum target of 5g salt per adult per day  - with children’s meals taking priority - and saving lives! The HSFSA wants to emphasise the importance of this call to action amongst all South African fast food chains, both international and local. “With South Africans having one of the highest rates of high blood pressure worldwide and 1 in 10 children already suffering from high blood pressure, we simply cannot afford to allow such high levels of salt in popular children’s meals,” says Christelle Crickmore, science and programme development manager, HSFSA.
The survey, the first of its kind looking at children’s meals sold from popular fast food chains, revealed the saltiest children’s meals around the world, highlighting, not only the excessive amounts of salt in these meals, but also the HUGE variation in salt content of the same meals sold in different countries:
Table 1: Difference in highest and lowest salt content of popular children’s meals*
*based on available meal combinations for that country
“The fact that these fast food chains are able to produce less salty children’s meals in some countries means they can do the same in all countries, and should immediately. All children, regardless of where they are from, should be able to enjoy the occasional meal out, as a treat, without putting their health at risk,” says Clare Farrand, Public Health Nutritionist and International Programme Lead at WASH.
“The more salt you eat as a child, the more likely you are to have serious health issues in later life.” Says Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairperson of WASH. “This can include high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease. That is why it is vitally important that children do not get used to the taste of salt.”
Finally, of the 387 children’s foods choices WASH surveyed only 233 had complete nutritional information to allow comparison of salt contents.
“Lack of nutrition information makes it impossible for parents who are trying to do their very best to make a healthy choice for their children,” says Stephanie Tucker, Nutritionist at WASH. “Therefore all fast-food restaurants should provide nutrition information, so that people can know exactly what is in their food.”
For more information contact:
About the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in South Africa suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSF, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation.
The HSFSA aims to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in South Africa and ultimately on the health care system of South Africa. Our mission is to empower people in South Africa to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention.
For more information, contact the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (43278) or visit www.heartfoundation.co.za. You can also find us on www.facebook.com/HeartStrokeSA and www.twitter.com/SAHeartStroke
 Survey details
- Salt per portion and per 100g information was collected from Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway’s own websites from February 2015. In country data was collected from March to June 2015.
- South African data was collected by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
- South African data was only available for KFC and McDonald’s with no information available for Burger King and Subway
- Data table sorted by highest salt per meal (g) in 2015
- Products translated from native language to English.
Criteria for selection
- Must operate within at least 3 regions (for ease of analysis/accessibility of information)
- Must have at least one widely consumed product
- must have at least one product/product equivalent that is comparable across countries
- Must have nutritional information available on website/customer helpline
- Local variations are avoided where possible for international relevance
 A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps in the UK contains 0.5g of salt. A KFC Popcorn Nuggets & Fries contains 5.34g salt per serve – 10.68 packets of ready salted crisps worth of salt.
 Maximum Recommended Salt Intakes
The daily recommended maximum amount of salt children should eat depends on their age. According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN):
 World Health Organisation Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sodium_intake_printversion.pdf
For more about the World Action on Salt and Health, refer to www.worldactiononsalt.com.
For more about the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, refer to www.heartfoundation.co.za.
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/press-releases
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