LONDON — New research from the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) shows significant variance in salt content among global brands and their counterparts around the world.
The survey of more than 260 food products from such food manufacturers as McDonald’s Corp., Kellogg Co., Nestle S.A., Burger King Corp., and Subway found no products with the same salt content as its counterpart on the other side of the globe.
Canada, Brazil and the Middle East were the regions most often identified by WASH as having some of the highest portions of salt content among the surveyed products. By comparison, the United States tended to be in the middle of the pack while the United Kingdom — which has made salt intake a focus of its public health efforts — often was in the bottom half.
As an example of the variance in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, the WASH survey said Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sold in the Middle East had 2.8 grams of salt per 100 grams, which compared with 1.833 grams in Canada and 1.786 in the United States. Kellogg’s Special K, meanwhile, had 2.328 grams of salt in product sold in Canada, which compared with 1.774 grams in the United States and 1.13 grams in the United Kingdom.
When it comes to hamburgers, it appears Brazil prefers the most salt, with Burger King Double Whoppers in the country registering 0.874 grams of salt and bacon double cheeseburgers containing 1.578 grams, both highs for their respective categories. By comparison, a Double Whopper contains 0.729 grams of salt in the United States and 0.615 grams in the United Kingdom.
Graham MacGregor, chairman of WASH and professor of cardiovascular medicine at St. George’s University of London, said the extreme variance in salt contents among similar products in different countries "raises serious ethical concerns."
"It is very hypocritical for manufacturers to make healthy claims about their products whilst unnecessarily adding to worldwide health inequalities," Mr. MacGregor said. "A gradual reduction in salt can easily be done across all products in all countries. We urge all manufacturers to make these reductions not just in a few fortunate countries, but across the world."
Data for the survey was sourced from the food manufacturers’ corporate web sites.
WASH was established in 2005 and is a global group with the mission to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake. The organization has 374 members, mainly experts in hypertension, from 80 countries.