Canada’s fast food: the saltiest in the world?

Have you ever wondered how much salt is actually in those French fries from your favourite fast food outlet? New research published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that the answer to this question depends largely on your home address.

For instance, the salt content of fast-food French fries was nearly three times higher in Canada than in France (1.4 vs 0.5 g of salt per 100g of fries, respectively), and higher than that of every other country surveyed, including the US (0.6g/100g), UK (0.8g/100g), and Australia (0.8g/100g). An important bit of information I should add here is that the French fries came from the same 6 restaurants in all countries surveyed: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Dominos, Burger King, and Subway.

Canada also seems to have the saltiest salads of all the countries surveyed. Indeed, the average fast-food salad in Canada has more than double the salt of a salad in New Zealand or France (0.8g/100g vs. 0.3g/100g).

The picture gets even more interesting when we look at the same food item from the same chain, but in different countries. For instance, McDonalds chicken nuggets are saltier in Canada than in any other country – nearly three times as salty as McDonalds chicken nuggets in the UK (1.7g/100g vs 0.6g/100g, respectively).

While the comparison to European countries fails to surprise me, I am frankly disappointed that fast food salt levels in Canada are in many instances higher than those in the US. How can our French fries have more than twice the salt content of those of our southern neighbours?

The authors provide no reasonable explanation for the varying salt levels between countries for identical foods from a single company. However, what becomes clear based on these findings is that the amount of salt in fast food can be reduced while maintaining palatability. Last time I checked, people in the US weren’t boycotting McDonalds fries due to lack of salt.

A major caveat to interpreting the findings of this study is that all numbers used in the analysis of this study were derived from the country-specific websites for each company.

Have a great weekend,


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ResearchBlogging.orgDunford, E., Webster, J., Woodward, M., Czernichow, S., Yuan, W., Jenner, K., Mhurchu, C., Jacobson, M., Campbell, N., & Neal, B. (2012). The variability of reported salt levels in fast foods across six countries: opportunities for salt reduction Canadian Medical Association Journal DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.111895

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