Fast-food 'healthy options' still full of fat and salt

Healthy options offered by burger and pizza chains are still stuffed with salt and fat despite menu changes.

An investigation of the food sold by the "big four" - McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut - found that 17 of 20 products were high in salt or saturated fat or both. Of those, five out of eight of the salads used as "evidence" of their embrace of healthy eating had "high" salt or fat content.

On average, the fast-food meals sampled by Which? had 274 calories per 100g of food, more than double that of a home-cooked roast dinner. And there were inaccuracies in the nutritional information provided by three of the companies.

McDonald's website claimed that a Big Mac and medium fries had 786 calories but analysis showed it had 900. Burger King's Whopper and regular fries had 19 grams of saturated fat, rather than the 13 grams claimed. Levels of saturated fat in KFC's Zinger crunchy salad were almost treble the company estimate.

Obesity has tripled in England since 1980. A third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese. Which? said that although fast food was not solely to blame, the rise in weight had been accompanied by the rise in fast-food sales.

Researchers said the chains frequently targeted children in promotions by giving away toys or goodie bags. Many used children's characters such as Mr Men, Postman Pat, Winnie the Pooh and My Little Pony.

Which?found the popularity of fast-food outlets was related to their advertising budgets. Researchers also analysed nutritional content. Burger King fries were only 86 per cent potato; the 11 other ingredients included partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, rice flour, dextrose, corn syrup solids and salt. McDonald's chicken grills contained 19 other ingredients. McDonald's and Burger King's cheddar slices included "cheese flavouring", trisodium citrate, diphosphates, polyphosphates and sorbic acid.

Some of the fast-food meals scored astronomical calorific counts. A Big Mac, medium fries and small vanilla milkshake contained 1,169 calories. A diner would need to walk 16 miles to work that off. Which? said: "Nearly all the fast food we tested contained a lot of salt. And salt can lurk where you least expect it. The KFC original chicken salad contains more salt than the KFC chicken fillet burger."

A Pizza Hut margherita pan pizza and garlic bread had 5.4 grams of salt, almost the entire recommended daily allowance of 6 grams.

The companies said their menus now had more variety. Pizza Hut said it gave customers "the choice of healthy or more indulgent food". McDonald's said its customers visited on average just two or three times a month.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, said: "The food industry knows there is evidence of a health problem which it is part of, but it likes to claim it has nothing to do with it."

Which? wants to ban television advertisements for fast-food aimed at children, saying such "aggressive but sophisticated" marketing was irresponsible.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

    Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

    MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

    Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

    Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific