Children’s meals in “family friendly” restaurants such as Burger King and Bella Italia have been found to contain high levels of salt, with more than a quarter containing 2g or more per portion.
The report, from the Consensus Action on Salt & Health (Cash), found that for a child aged four to six years, three quarters of the meals contain a third or more of their current maximum daily recommended intake of salt.
It found parents with children eat out on average once a fortnight, meaning that if a three-year-old child was to eat some of the dishes with the highest salt levels found by the report, they would be consuming 10.5 teaspoons of extra salt per year.
Brands including Burger King and the Hungry Horse chain sold meals that were among the worst offenders.
Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at Cash, said: “We are all eating too much salt and it’s a scandal that very few restaurants are taking salt reduction seriously – especially when the health of our children is at risk.
“Our survey has shown us that many restaurants have done little to reduce the salt content in their dishes, especially those targeting kids.”
Burger King Kid’s Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries contained 4.6g salt per serving – 155 per cent of the maximum recommended intake for four to six year olds, while the Hungry Horse Pic ‘n’ Mix Large Ham with Mashed Potato & Baked Beans contained 4.2g salt per serving – up from a previous recent level of 3.2g.
The latest figures by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey show children aged four to 18 are currently consuming more salt than the recommendations set by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition back in 2003. Campaigners believe the recommendations for children are far too high.
The survey looked at 218 children’s main meals from 23 restaurants, pubs, fast food chains and cafes. Salt content information for Bella Italia, Brewer’s Fayre, Giraffe, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill and TGI Friday were not available online or at request.
Cash staff visited the restaurants and ordered three main meals at random from the children’s menu which were taken away in containers and delivered to public analysts, who analysed the salt content of the meals. Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Cash, said: “Evidence suggests dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns later in life.
“Salt should therefore not be given to children as this could lead to a ‘salt addiction’ – a preference for salt throughout their lifetime.
“This will consequently raise their blood pressure which tracks into adulthood, leading to increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS