Salt in Fast Food Varies by Country, Study Says

Canadian study shows US, Canadian fast food contains more salt than international counterparts

A Burger King in France; a new study shows international fast food has less sodium than the U.S.

If you're abroad and craving a fast-food burger and fries, you may want to consider the salt factor: The crispy chicken McNugget you munch on in the U.S. isn't identical to the one you snack on in the U.K. A Canadian study shows the large discrepancies in sodium content in fast food across the globe.

The study, published in Canada and including authors from the World Action on Salt and Health, tested fast-food information from six countries, including Australia, France, and New Zealand, to determine sodium content. The range of sodium content was huge; for example, one chicken McNugget in the U.K. had about  240 milligrams of sodium, while its U.S. counterparts had 600 milligrams. (New Zealand, France, and Australia were average in sodium content.) Some foods were about the same worldwide; the average amount of salt in a fast-food burger, regardless of country, was about 520 milligrams of sodium. The World Health Organization's daly recommendation for sodium intake is 2,000 milligrams per day (or about four burgers).

The researchers weren't sure why each country had such different sodium amounts in fast-food staples, but one reason could be the U.K.'s tough stance on salt-reduction in packaged foods. Packaged foods also had varied sodium contents: Norman Campbell of the University of Calgary in Canada, one of the researchers in the study, said to Reuters that packaged foods often have just as much salt as fast foods. "Yes, salt in fast food is very high," he said. "But if you went to an expensive restaurant, the sodium levels would be very high. If you buy packaged foods, the levels would often be very high."

The World Action on Salt and Health is known for its efforts to pressure govermental regulation in salt usage, and the study makes no exceptions for fast foods. The problem isn't food producers, said Campbell, but governments who won't regulate sodium, a known factor in high blood pressure and other diseases.