Shock and amazement! Fast food is saltier in the U.S.

It’s no secret that fast-food fare like burgers, french fries, and fried chicken tends to be high in sodium. According to a new study, however, American fast-food customers may be getting a larger dose of sodium than their counterparts in other countries — even if they order the exact same items off the menu.

In the study, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers analyzed the posted nutritional information for more than 2,000 items sold in multiple countries by the world’s six largest fast-food chains: Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Subway.

Overall, the researchers found, fast food tended to be saltier in the United States than in the other countries included in the study: Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and the UK. What’s more, the sodium content of the same menu items at the same chains varied by country, sometimes widely…

In some cases the difference was dramatic. The Chicken McNuggets sold in the United States contained 2.5 times more sodium than the McNuggets sold in the UK. Likewise, the sodium content of a Subway club sandwich was more than twice as high in the United States as it was in France…

…Joy Dubost, Ph.D., director of nutrition for the National Restaurant Association…then wastes space coming up with reasons why the study should be followed by another study.

Although they can’t pinpoint the reasons for the sodium disparities, Norm Campbell and his colleagues say the study findings show that limitations in food-processing technology are not a barrier to providing lower-sodium products, as the food industry has claimed.

“We found multiple examples of low-salt choices, and for the same product across different countries there’s variation in the amount of salt that’s added,” Campbell says. “From that perspective, it would appear that it’s not very challenging to lower the amount of salt in food products.”

“Most of the science says if you reduce salt by 10% it’s completely unnoticeable,” Campbell says. “What we really want is very gradual reductions which don’t affect the consumer base. Consumers enjoy the food and the health of the population improves.”

Getting away with serving crap for a long period of time, saving on the cost of preserving crap fast food – or even just believing the savings are there – is often adequate reason for the beancounters in charge of corporate food retailers to avoid change, responsibility or sensible decision-making.

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