The saltiest children’s meals in high street restaurants : Revealed

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 09:40:22 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 09:40:22

Analysis shows worst offender is Bella Italia’s larger vegan pizza A vegan pizza has been revealed as the saltiest children’s meal available at high street chain restaurants

Analysis shows worst offender is Bella Italia’s larger vegan pizza

A vegan pizza has been revealed as the saltiest children’s meal available at high street chain restaurants.

Analysis by the charity Action on Salt found that the larger vegan margherita pizza from restaurant chain Bella Italia was the worst offending main children’s meal with 4.4g of salt, followed closely by Prezzo’s gluten-free vegan pepperoni pizza at 4.3g.

By contrast, a normal large margherita pizza from Bella Italia had a third less salt at 3g.

The charity said more than a third, or 37 per cent, of children’s main meals sold in restaurants still exceeded the Government’s maximum salt target of 1.71g, which is due to come into force by the end of 2025.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen had the highest overall salt content in its children’s meals – averaging 3.06g per meal.

The burger chain also had some of the saltiest products on the market. Its junior cheeseburger with skinny fries contained 4.2g of salt.

Other salty meals included Prezzo’s rigatoni carbonara with its 3.9g of salt, Ask Italian’s “happy face” pizza with ham and pineapple at 3.77g, and Hungry Horse’s Quorn sausages, fresh garden salad and baked beans containing 3.59g.

Chief medical officers advise that children aged between four and six eat no more than 3g of salt a day, rising to 5g for under 10s and 6g – the equivalent of one teaspoon – for anyone aged 11 or over.

It means almost half of children’s restaurant meals provide at least 50 per cent of a child’s daily limit, with some dishes containing more than a child’s entire day’s worth of salt.

Of the 37 restaurants included in the research, 29 provided accessible nutrition information for customers in conjunction with legislation set by the Government in 2021 on calorie labelling, which applies to large businesses.

The restaurant chain with the lowest average salt content in its children’s meals was Subway, at 0.79g.

Meals found to have a low salt content were Wetherspoon’s tomato and mascarpone pasta, with no salt, ASK Italian mini main pasta with butter (0.01g), Prezzo’s gluten-free kids’ fusilli with butter (0.05g) and Hungry Horse’s Impossible Nuggets with mini corn on the cob and chips (0.12g).

The survey found similar meals had varying levels of salt depending on the company in question, such as sausage meals from Hungry Horse (3.59g) containing almost four times more salt than those served at Wetherspoon (1g).

Just six restaurants had their entire menu below the salt target, including Burger King, Ikea, Pret A Manger, Subway, Toby Carvery and YO! Sushi.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen had the lowest compliance, with 88 per cent of exceeding the salt target, followed by Wetherspoon at 69 per cent and Prezzo’s 68 per cent, the charity said.

Children eating ‘too much salt’

Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Salt, said: “Children in the UK are eating too much salt, which puts them on track to develop high blood pressure later in life.

“Raised blood pressure is the biggest cause of strokes and heart disease, which in themselves are the biggest cause of death and a major cause of disability.

“Our research clearly demonstrates that many companies are deliberately flouting the targets for salt reduction in their foods and appear to be indifferent to our children’s health. It is time the Government took action and enforced the salt targets, as some companies have clearly demonstrated that it can easily be done.”


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