Skip to main content
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

New Survey Names and Shames UK’s ‘Saltiest' Family-Friendly Eateries and Warns of a New Generation of ‘Salt Addicts’

  • Children’s meals in ‘family friendly’ eateries revealed to STILL contain dangerously high levels of salt - habituating children to the taste of salt
  • Over a quarter of meals surveyed contain 2g or more of salt per meal - that’s the entire maximum recommendation for a whole day for a 1-3 year old – and more salt than 4 packets of crisps!
  • Too much salt in childhood puts up blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart failure
  • Call for the maximum recommendation of salt for children to be lowered

According to a new study by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) to launch National Salt Awareness Week 2015 (16 – 22nd March), children’s meals served in ‘family friendly’ eateries STILL contain worryingly high levels of salt – with over a quarter of meals (28%) containing 2g or more of salt per meal. For a 1-3 year old, that’s their maximum recommended intake for a WHOLE DAY and more salt than the equivalent of 4 packets of crisps!

In comparison, for a child aged 4-6 years, three quarters of the meals (74%) contain a third or more of their current maximum daily recommended intake of salt (3g – ½ teaspoon).
The survey, which is the first to analyse the salt content of 218 children’s meals from 23 different eating establishments, revealed the top salty offenders include:

  • Burger King Kid’s Veggie Bean Burger with Small Fries: 4.6g salt per serving (155% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake) N.B recently increased from 2.8g salt per serving!! 
  • Hungry Horse Pic ‘n’ Mix Large Ham (2 slices) with Mashed Potato & Baked Beans: 4.2g salt per serving (141% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)
    N.B. recently increased from 3.2g salt per serving
  • Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill Bangers & Mash with Gravy: 4.0g salt per serving (135% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)
  • Beefeater Mr Noisy's Bangers and Mash with Peas & Gravy: 3.9g salt per serving (130% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake)
  • Bella Italia Pizza Dog from the Piccolo Menu & Cheesy Garlic Bread: 3.7g salt per serving (124% of 4-6 year olds maximum recommended intake) 
As it is estimated that 40% of parents eat out with their children at least once a fortnight; if a 3 year old child was to dine out on some of the high dishes highlighted above, instead of lower salt options, they would be consuming a whopping 10.5 teaspoons of EXTRA salt per year!

By switching from a high salt to a low salt meal, parents could give their child nearly 3g less salt in just one meal.

Examples of differences between popular meals – high and low:


Only 5 of the 23 catering establishments included in the survey (Jamie’s Italian, Subway, Bella Italia, EAT. and JD Wetherspoon) have pledged to reduce salt in their meals by signing up to the salt targets set by the Department of Health, highlighting the distinct lack of commitment to children’s health from the hospitality industry.

Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at CASH says; “We are all eating too much salt and it’s a scandal that very few restaurants are taking salt reduction seriously - especially when the health of our children is at risk. Our survey has shown us that many restaurants have done little to reduce the salt content in their dishes, especially those targeting kids. The targets set by the Department of Health are a perfect opportunity for restaurants to show their commitment to the health of their customers. More needs to be done and action taken now.”

Latest figures by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) show children aged 4-18 years are currently consuming more salt than the recommendations set by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) back in 2003. CASH argue that the recommendations for children are far too high, and that evidence shows children would benefit, throughout their lifetime, from much lower salt intakes.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH and adds: “Evidence suggests dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns later in life. Salt should therefore not be given to children as this could lead to a ‘salt addiction’ - a preference for salt throughout their lifetime. This will consequently raise their blood pressure which tracks into adulthood, leading to increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks. Yet the recommendations suggest it is safe for a child of 4 to eat half a teaspoon (3g) of salt a day! The evidence should be reviewed by the Department of Health immediately and a new, lower recommendation set for children.”

National Salt Awareness Week 2015 is encouraging everyone to eat less salt and to enjoy the real flavour of food. Despite the UK leading the world in salt reduction we are all still eating too much salt, with a population average intake of 8.1g per day, much more than the maximum daily recommendation of 6g per day for an adult (about a teaspoon).
A high salt diet can set a child up for raised blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular disease later on in life, and is also linked to a number of other serious health conditions such as stomach cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease. The Department of Health estimates that reducing salt intakes by just 1g - a pinch of salt - would save 4,147 preventable deaths and £288 million to the NHS every year.

Top 5 questions to ask your waiter when eating out to make your meal less salty:

  1. Ask your waiter for ‘less salt please!’ - You wouldn’t expect sugar to be added to your cup of tea, so why should they add salt to your food? This counts for adults too!
  2. Ask them to serve salad dressings, sauces or gravy on the side, so you can decide how much to add.
  3. Does your meal contain salty ingredients such as olives, capers, anchovies, cheese and cured meats? Ask for less, or better yet replace them with fresh ingredients such as vegetables.
  4. Ask if they have nutrition information so you can see exactly which meals are higher in salt (more than 1.8g per serving is ‘high’).
  5. Parmesan with your pasta? Say ‘no thanks’!