According to a new study by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), 28 per cent of children’s meals served in ‘family friendly’ eateries contained 2g or more of salt per meal, the maximum recommended daily intake for a one to three year old.
Three quarters of children’s meals contained a third or more of the maximum recommended intake of salt for a four to six year old child (3g).
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 leads to increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks - yet the recommendations suggest it is safe for a child of four to eat half a teaspoon (3g) of salt a day! The evidence should be reviewed by the Department of Health immediately and a new, lower recommendation set for children.”
Restaurants ‘named and shamed’
The survey analysed the salt content of 218 children’s meals from 23 different eateries.
Some of the worst offenders included Burger King's Kid’s Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries, which contained 155 per cent of a four to six year old's maximum recommended intake of salt (4.6g).
Hungry Horse’s Pic ‘n’ Mix Large Ham with Mashed Potato & Baked Beans was found to contain 4.2g salt per serving, 141 per cent of a four to six year old's maximum recommended intake, recently increased from 3.2g salt per serving.
Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill’s Bangers & Mash with Gravy contained 135 per cent of a four to six year old's maximum recommended intake (4.0g).
Bella Italia’s Pizza Dog from the Piccolo Menu & Cheesy Garlic Bread contained 3.7g salt per serving, 124 per cent of a four to six year old's maximum recommended intake.
A spokesperson for Greene King, who own Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill, told BigHospitality: “We are committed to reducing the levels of salt within our supply chain and many products already used in our children’s menus are reduced salt, such as burgers, sausages and baked beans in Hungry Horse.
“We are continually reviewing the level of sodium in our products and identifying ways in which it can be reduced without affecting product quality, safety and flavour and as a signatory of the Public Health Responsibility Deal's Salt Reduction Pledge in 2011 we report annually on our progress.”
A Bella Italia spokesperson said the company had signed up to the Government’s Responsibility Deal and was committed to driving down salt consumption: “Our new kids menu was developed to provide parents with many choices so that when they come to us for a treat, they can pick what’s right for their children.”
A Burger King spokesperson said: "Burger King Corp. (BKC) is committed to providing menu options for guests to meet their individual nutritional needs. As part of its commitment, BKC has successfully reduced the sodium content in many of its products around the world."
Of the 23 businesses surveyed, CASH states only five (Jamie’s Italian, Subway, Bella Italia, EAT. and JD Wetherspoon) have pledged to reduce salt in their meals by signing up to the salt targets set by the Department of Health.
The survey was commissioned by CASH to mark National Salt Awareness Week 2015 (16-22 March), the group is campaigning for the maximum recommended daily allowance of salt to be lowered.