Fast Food Much Saltier in U.S.: Study

Regulating salt levels in fast food could be a boon to public health, the study suggested

By Sam Schulz
|  Monday, Apr 23, 2012  |  Updated 8:33 AM EDT
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Fast Food Much Saltier in U.S.: Study

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Fast food — including McDonald's chicken nuggets — is much saltier in the U.S. than elsewhere, a new study found.

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If you're worried about your salt intake, you'd do well to get your fast food in another country, a new study suggests.

Fast food in the United States is far saltier than fast food elsewhere, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.

An American McDonald's chicken nugget in the U.S. has more than twice the salt of a British McDonald's chicken nugget — 1.6 grams of salt per 100 grams of chicken in the United States, but only .6 grams per 100 grams of chicken in the United Kingdom, NPR reported.

Canadian nuggets were almost as salty as the American ones, but Australian, French and New Zealand nuggets had much less, according to NPR.

The American nuggets were no fast food outlier, either, according to the study.

The U.S.had the highest levels of salt in all the food studied — including seven different foods from six chains, including Burger King, Domino's Pizza, KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Subway — out of all six countries. The study found that pizza and chicken were generally the worst offenders.

Lead author Elizabeth Dunford said that there could be good reason that fast food in the U.K. — which places voluntary limits on salt in processed foods — has such low salt.

"In the right regulatory environment, it is likely that fast food companies could substantially reduce the salt in their products, translating to large gains for population health," she said.

"Fast-food manufacturers could dial back the salt without losing business," she told NPR, recommending that fast food companies commit to reducing salt in its food across the board. "Up to 20 percent, customers can't tell the difference."

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