Industry News | November 20, 2008

BK's Uphill Battle Against Salt

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No. 2 burger chain Burger King announced yesterday it would begin limiting the salt content in its Kids Meals to 600 milligrams. The initiative is part of the brand’s BK Positive Steps program, a commitment to childhood nutrition.

Burger King So far, the only meal to meet the sodium limitations features Kraft Macaroni, Apple Fries, and 1 percent milk and clocks in at 345 calories and 505 milligrams of sodium.

Although the chain did not outline which ingredients it will use to lower salt content, Cindy Syracuse, senior director of cultural marketing, says the company is working closely with its suppliers. “We have challenged our suppliers to start at the lowest sodium level possible and then gradually increase the sodium level, as needed, to meet the satisfaction of our expert taste test panelists,” she says.

Elizabeth Schaub RD/LD, CDE, of Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, says reducing salt content could prevent high blood pressure in children, which can lead to heart disease and strokes.

“Currently if you took your child to Burger King and ordered a kid's cheeseburger, small french fries, and 1 percent chocolate milk, your child would get 1300 milligrams of sodium in one meal,” Schaub says. “The cheese burger alone has 700 milligrams of sodium in it. That is over half of the recommended daily amount for a 5 year old in one food item.”

While the chain says it has plans to extend its sodium limitation to the entire menu, Schaub says it will be difficult. “Just realizing that a kid’s cheeseburger has over 600 milligrams of sodium helps us to understand the changes the restaurants will have to complete to lower the sodium content,” she says.

In addition to attempting to lower salt content, Burger King recently announced the elimination of all trans fats as part of the BK Positive Steps program.

--Blair Chancey