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Is salt the secret ingredient in KFC's original recipe?

April 27, 2010 |  6:01 am

You already worry about the calories in fast food (at least, you know you should). Now the good folks at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are giving us something else to agonize over – the salt content of those calorie-laden fast-food meals.

Kfc The report couldn’t be more timely. Just last week, the Institute of Medicine released a report urging the Food and Drug Administration to set limits on the amount of sodium that’s acceptable in processed foods, and the FDA pledged to put pressure on the food industry. Sodium intake is important because too much salt can cause high blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s current dietary guidelines suggest that Americans limit their salt intake to 2,300 milligrams per day – about the equivalent of one teaspoon. The American Heart Assn. says a better cap is 1,500 mg per day. At the moment, both recommendations are a fantasy – the average American consumes 3,500 mg of sodium each day.

More than 75% of that salt comes from prepared foods, including restaurant offerings. So the health department sent interviewers out to 300 restaurants throughout New York City’s five boroughs and asked lunchtime patrons to show them their receipts. They got 6,580 receipts for meals that included at least one entrée.

How salty were those meals? The average lunch contained 1,750 mg of sodium, and 20% topped the 2,300 mg the government recommends for an entire day, the researchers report in Tuesday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The saltiest meals were purchased at Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeye’s – 55% of chicken chain lunches exceeded 2,300 mg of salt. The average chicken lunch had 66 more calories than the average burger-chain lunch (999 vs. 933) but contained 900 mg of additional salt, the researchers calculated.

Is it possible to eat at fast-food chains without going overboard on sodium? Apparently so. One in every 36 meals was limited to 600 mg of salt, an amount the FDA considers healthy. But the researchers didn’t say what was in those healthier meals.

In addition to KFC and Popeye’s, the researchers collected receipts from patrons of Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Au Bon Pain, Subway, Domino’s, Papa John’s Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: Fried chicken restaurants like this one served up the saltiest meals in a survey by New York City health officials. Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press

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Comments (6)

It would have been more useful (if also less panicky) to let us know what the healthier options actually are, y'know?

Salt isn't the problem. Even dramatic reduction of salt only means a few mm of Hg difference in blood pressure.

The real problem - carbohydrates. If government really wants to do something about health, they'd regulate carbohydrates to less than 40g a day for everyone.

The secret ingredient is MSG which is part salt.

WHO CARES

John Steel

The assault on salt is not focused on the right demon in most foods, what they are not focusing on is the ingredient MSG that is used by 75% of restaurants and packaged foods. MSG causes swelling in some, while causing mental disorientation in others. MSG is addictive, that is why it is used in salty foods to enhance the flavor to keep you coming back. MSG is a poison that is quickly destroying the health of the American people with the blessing of the US Government.

Less than a third of high blood pressure cases are sensitive to sodium. Should those organizations who push for salt restrictions be subjected to a class action suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress on behalf of those who needn't worry about salt levels?



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