Big Mac, big on salt

20 October 2014 - 02:00 By Katharine Child
One of the McDonalds fast food restaurants.
One of the McDonalds fast food restaurants.
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24

South Africa, a global leader in legislation forcing manufacturers to reduce salt in food by 2019, has one of the saltiest Big Mac burgers in the world.

The World Action Group on Salt and Health, a British NGO known as Wash, recently released the results of a survey on the amount of salt in "iconic" products available internationally.

"The survey found that not a single product had consistent salt content across the world, with people in some countries being fed twice the amount of salt as in others," said Wash international public health expert Clare Farrand.

She told The Times: "The fact that companies distribute products with so much more salt in some countries compared with others raises serious ethical concerns."

A South African Big Mac contains 2.47g of salt (according to the McDonald's website) whereas in Ireland it contains 2.1g.

A local MacDonald's fish burger, however, was near the bottom of the survey, with only 1.27g of salt, lower than most countries.

The saltiest fish burger is in Belgium, with 1.8g.

Reducing salt in food is a cost-effective way of reducing blood pressure and helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Wits University research group Priceless showed that reducing salt intake by 0.85g a day would result in 7400 fewer cardiovascular deaths and 4300 fewer non-fatal strokes annually.

Legislation was passed last year that forced food producers to cut the salt content of processed foods by 2016 and to make more changes by 2019. The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 5g of salt a day.

Farrand said: "Our survey shows manufacturers are able to make products with less salt. They need to ensure all consumers worldwide can benefit from eating products with the least salt, not just the fortunate few."

She praised South African legislation, calling the country a world leader.