The latest World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) study claims people in certain countries are still being fed double the amount of salt by the same popular brands as consumers in other countries.
No product surveyed had consistent salt content, with huge differences from one country to another, said WASH, which collected data from manufacturers’ own websites in August. It called on manufacturers to cut the salt content of products in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
Findings from WASH’s product survey included:
- A KFC Original Fillet Burger in the Middle East contained 3.5g of salt per burger, triple the content in the same product sold in Malaysia, which had 1.05g;
- A Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburger bought in Canada contained 2.85g of salt per burger, while one bought in New Zealand contained 1.92g;
- Nestlé Fitness cereal had 2g of salt per 100g in Russia, while consumers in Chile could eat the same product with just 0.72g per 100g; and
- Kellogg's Cornflakes sold in Venezuela contained 1.90g of salt per 100g, versus 1.25g of salt per 100g in the UK.
WASH argued differences in global taste preferences could not be blamed for the difference in salt content, as no one country consistently had the saltiest foods. For example, the US had the saltiest Kellogg’s Special K, but the least salty Kellogg’s All Bran.
“Manufacturers are clearly able to make products with less salt, but deliberately choose not to, despite salt damaging their customers’ health,” said Clare Farrand, International Programme Lead at WASH.
“This study also highlights a lack of consistent nutrition labelling and portion size across the world, which is adding to consumer confusion, as people cannot choose the less salty options, even if they want to. Consistent front-of-pack nutrient labelling should be provided on all products to allow consumers to make better-informed choices.”
WASH praised the positive changes over time in some products, which had gradually reduced their salt content since a similar 2006 WASH survey.
For example, Subway had slashed the salt in its Club 6-inch sandwich in all countries in the survey, with the biggest reduction seen in the UK, from 3g to 1.7g of salt per portion.
However, some products contained more salt now than they did in 2006. For example, the salt content of Burger King’s UK Bacon Double Cheeseburger had increased on average by 20% since 2006, from 2.2g to 2.64g, despite salt reduction calls.
‘More needs to be done’
“The UK is leading the way in salt reduction, and has set salt targets for over 80 categories of food, however this survey shows that more still needs to be done,” said Farrand. “It is also clear that greater focus needs to be put on the out-of-home food sector.”
Professor Graham MacGregor, WASH Chairman and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute, Queen Mary University of London said: “Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure that we know to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.
“At the World Health Assembly in May 2013 it was unanimously agreed that all countries should reduce their daily salt intake by 30% towards a target of up to 5g per day, by 2025.
“Our study has shown that many global food manufacturers are not doing enough to help achieve this target, which is completely unacceptable. Indeed this survey reveals a chaotic approach by these world renowned iconic brands and immediate action is required now.”