Reduce the salt!

Every so often, there is a new advertisement for a fast food restaurant coming out with a new menu that is healthier.

They might bring in salads, grilled chicken wraps, gluten-free dough or a whole wheat option.

However, a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has shown that food at major fast food restaurants in Canada is too salty, including some of their healthy options like salads, in comparison to several other countries.

The six fast food restaurants that an international team of researchers used to compare salt content were McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway and Domino’s Pizza. The six countries used in the study were Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The study compared 2,124 items from their menus across the six different fast food places. The results showed that fast foods located in Canada have more salt in their meals than the other countries.

Even though there are some food options on the menu that contain less salt, everyone has their favourite meal that they always choose. Many fast food lovers can agree that the option of a juicy Big Mac from McDonalds or a cheese pizza from Pizza Hut outweighs a southwest salad or whole wheat crust.

But what if salt levels were reduced from the current meals offered?

There would be no slip in your diet or craving for those salty fries.

Considering the level of sodium content in other countries is less than Canada, North American franchises have the capability to reduce it if they wanted to. Other countries have taken the initiative to decrease sodium in fast food places so people can live healthier. The United Kingdom has reduced sodium levels in some packaged foods by 40 per cent. The National Salt Reduction Initiative in the United States has also started reducing salt in packaged and restaurant food.

What has Canada done?

The federal government had said it wanted food manufacturers and retailers to voluntarily reduce their sodium levels before the end of 2010. No action has been taken as of yet.

Currently, the average Canadian ingests about a teaspoon and a half (7.2 grams) of sodium a day. That is way over the recommended daily maximum of 2,300 milligrams (2.3 grams).

It might be better for these restaurants to reduce their salt levels in existing dishes than try to expand their menu to options that still don’t offer a healthier alternative.

Excessive salt intake may be a contributing factor in a number of health issues, including high blood pressure.

The study showed that if the amount of salt used in foods is decreased, it could prevent many premature deaths from heart disease and strokes. Experts noted that between 11,000 and 15,000 lives could be saved.

If people aren’t given the option to choose an unhealthy meal, then they have no choice but to pick something else.

They can still get their favourite meal but it will just be prepared healthier.

Besides, the healthier options that are presently offered at fast food restaurants can be among the most expensive items on the menu. A meal-size salad is practically the same price as a hamburger combo. Fast food is supposed to be cheap. People aren’t going to pay that much for a healthy option which is barely going to fill their stomach and still contains a high level of sodium.

The release of this study is yet another reminder that too much salt is being consumed in an individual’s diet, especially through fast food meals. However, with people leading very busy lifestyles, sometimes the only option is to turn to a drive-through.

People always need the option of take-out food. It is the responsibility of the restaurants to provide satisfactory food, keeping in mind the health of an individual.

It’s time for menus to reconsider their salt levels in food, especially if it has the potential to save lives.

About this article

By: Rebecca Raveendran
Posted: Apr 22 2012 7:56 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Opinion

2 Comments on "Reduce the salt!"

  1. It is actually not a well known fact that Canadian fast food restaurants have higher salt content than the other 5 countries – which I think is the focus of this article – trying to raise awareness of how much salt people are consuming. Who says fast food chains in Canada will never reduce the salt in their food? The Supersize me documentary on McDonalds that went viral clearly made an impact – strong enough for the fast food chain to make some drastic changes to their menu. You can’t know that this will never change, so it’s not exactly slaying the slain.

  2. As if we didn’t know this already? As canadians are getting as overweight as americans, salt content in food is not the problem, it’s people who are becoming increasingly unaware of how much salt they are consuming. We know fast food chains will never reduce the salt in their food so why beat a dead horse?

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