Salt: The Forgotten Killer

Center for Science in the Public Interest - Salt: The Forgotten Killer
“Who knows how many Americans have been pushed prematurely into their graves thanks to sodium levels like those found in Olive Garden, Chili’s, and Red Lobster?”

The recommended daily allowance is 1500 mg/day. But do people realize how much salt is really in the restaurant food they’re eating? Not just the fast food places, but the family restaurants. The Center for Science in Public Interest released a report today taking a close look at a range of fast food restaurants (obvious culprits) and several family restaurants (not so obvious culprits). Most of the meals being served range between 2,000 mg and 6,000 mg.

The best quote from the CSPI press release (unfortunately buried in the fourth paragraph; excerpted above so I wouldn’t be guilty of the same crime):

“Who knows how many Americans have been pushed prematurely into their graves thanks to sodium levels like those found in Olive Garden, Chili’s, and Red Lobster?” asked CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “These chains are sabotaging the food supply. They should cut back and give consumers the freedom to decide for themselves how much salt they want.”

One of the most interesting points in the actual report, “Heart Attack Entrees  with Side Orders of Stroke,” is similarly buried on page four of the Introduction. It describes how sodium levels in the UK, where the Food Standards Agency has made salt reduction a priority:

Consider McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, French Fries, Big Mac, and Sausage and Egg McMuffin. On average, those products in the U.S. contain 57 percent more sodium (per 100 grams) than in the U.K.

Why can’t reduing sodium in our diet be a priority here? Nutrition information is available, but it is often hard to find. Here are links to the nutrition information pages for some of the restaurants in the report:

Olive GardenChili’s (.pdf), Panera Bread (.pdf) and Subway.

Most of the other restaurants in the report are obvious culprits such as Taco Bell, McDonalds, Arby’s, etc.

In a report released in December 2008, “Salt Assault: Brand Name Comparisons of Processed Foods” one of the recommendations is to add a warning label to containers of salt purchased at the grocery store:

SALT PROMOTES HEART DISEASE. USE LESS. TRY USING LESS SALT THAN RECIPES CALL FOR.

If only the warning could be added to restaurant menus and the little salt shakers many people have at home.

(Click here for CSPI’s full library of information on salt.)

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