Some of the UK’s biggest restaurant chains are serving dishes unacceptably high in salt to children, health campaigners have warned.
A third of meals (34%) surveyed by Action on Salt contained 2g or more of salt – or two thirds of a four to six-year-old’s maximum daily limit.
Of the 302 meals surveyed, 41% were high in salt, containing more than 1.8g.
The saltiest meal was Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s cheeseburger with skinny fries containing 4.8g of salt.
The survey found similar dishes contained significantly different amounts of salt depending on the restaurant, with Prezzo’s spaghetti Bolognese containing 3.2g compared with Beefeater spaghetti Bolognese with 0.3g.
Restaurants have been asked to gradually reduce the amount of salt being added to their dishes, with a target set of no more than 1.71g for children’s meals.
However, nearly half (43%) of the surveyed meals exceeded this level. More than three quarters of meals served at Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Pizza Hut exceed the salt target, in comparison to Brewer’s Fayre, Burger King and Ikea where all their children’s dishes fell below 1.71g, Action on Salt said.
Action on Salt nutritionist Sonia Pombo said: “It has been three years since our previous survey was undertaken exposing the unacceptably high salt dishes served up in UK restaurants and it is now abundantly clear that no progress has been made.
“These stark new findings should be a wakeup call to the sector to make children’s health a priority.”
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Salt, said: “Gradually reducing the salt that is added to our food is the most cost-effective measure for lowering blood pressure and thereby reducing the thousands of strokes and heart disease that are caused by this excessive salt intake.
“Ministers must now force recalcitrant restaurants to stop adding all of this salt with a mandatory reformulation programme, better labelling and restrictions on marketing and promotions to truly stop this flood of unhealthy food being served up and putting our children’s future health at risk.”