Fast food is basically one giant salt bomb, which you’ve probably gathered from years of empirical research at the fringes of a greased-stained bag. But according to a new study conducted by World Action on Salt and Health, not all fast food gets salted equally. For example, researchers found varying levels of sodium while studying an international spread of Chicken McNuggets. The sample from the U.S. contained 1.5 grams of salt per serving, while the sample from typically safe-and-sane Canada contained 1.7 grams, and England’s packed less than half of that, with just 0.6 grams of salt per serving. Elsewhere, the McNugget researchers found wavering salt content in samples procured in France, New Zealand, and Australia. So what does the research prove exactly (besides reminding us Yanks that we’re still hopelessly unhealthy)?
According to Fox News, one of the study’s lead researchers says it’s not really clear why salt levels fluctuate throughout the world’s McNugget supply. Naturally, everyone wants to believe there’s a shady subterranean team of developers working to perfect the precise levels of bad-for-you ingredients in our fast food, thereby recreating the peaks and perils of crack use and keeping us forever tethered to the Golden Arches’ siren call. Unfortunately, the hypothesis is way less cool.
The discrepancies could have a lot to do with how different global governments are seeking to restrict sodium levels in their people’s food. The U.K. has one such government that set voluntary limits on salt in packaged foods. Though the regulations don’t extend to fast food, the companies may still have been doing their part in reducing sodium, as they were part of the round table that lead the new legislation.
McDonald’s argues that the data used in the study is from 2010, a short time lapse that has seen the company reduce sodium content by 10 percent, according to a spokesperson, who also claims salt levels will continue to drop through 2015. But one of the lead McNugget scientists says, “The big issue here is not the companies. The big issue is the governments,” no doubt putting a huge smile of smug satisfaction onto the lips of Michael Bloomberg this morning.
So in the end, what do we really gain from letting an international team of brainiacs spend quality time (and probably a lot of money) on McNuggets? That they’re salty, though to differing degrees. Good thing those Canadians get free health care.