Salt Levels In Fast Food Vary From Country To Country, Study Finds

A chicken McNugget from a U.S. McDonald's is not identical to a chicken McNugget from an Australian McDonald's ... or a Canadian, French, New Zealand or U.K. McDonald's, for that matter.

A new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reveals that the salt levels in fast food are not identical from country to country. And in general, fast food in the U.S. and Canada has more salt in it than fast food in the United Kingdom and France.

"These high levels indicate failure of the current government approach that leaves salt reduction solely in the hands of industry," study researcher Dr. Norman Campbell, of the University of Calgary, said in a statement. "Salt reduction programs need to guide industry and oversee it with targets and timelines for foods, monitoring and evaluation, and stronger regulatory measures if the structured voluntary efforts are not effective."

Campbell worked with a number of other researchers from around the world on the study, including some from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, McGill University, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Auckland and the University of Sydney.

The study included menu items from Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Burger King (or Hungry Jack's, as it's known in Australia), Subway and Pizza Hut. The researchers looked at salt levels of a variety of foods, including salads, pizzas, french fries, sandwiches, burgers, chicken items and breakfast foods, which were collected from the companies' websites in 2010.

In general, the researchers found that the chicken menu items had the most salt and salad items had the least salt.

However, a McDonald's spokesperson told Reuters that the study uses data from 2010, and McDonald's has since lowered its sodium levels in their chicken items by 10 percent.

"Sodium reductions will continue across the menu and by 2015, we will reduce sodium an average of 15 percent across our national menu of food choices," the spokesperson said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people get 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day -- which is much higher than the daily recommended level of 2,300 milligrams or fewer a day (1,500 milligrams or fewer for people ages 51 and older, African Americans, and people with chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes).

For a look at how the salt levels range from country to country according to the 2010 data, take a look at how much salt is in chicken McNuggets in Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.