Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some Perspective on Burger King's Announcement to Reduce Sodium In Kids Meals

Burger King Corp. announced it is limiting sodium in all of its Kids Meals advertised to children under 12. The effort limits sodium to 600 mg or less and is a part of the BK Positive Steps initiative. It has not actually done it yet, but has annonced its intentions. Let’s give that some perspective.

First, according to the American Heart Institute, healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300mg per day. The UK Recommended Nutritional Intake for adults is less than 1600mg per day. The National Academy of Sciences says a healthy adult should have between 1500 and 2400mg per day. The Canadian government recommends that 4-8 year olds get no more than 1200mg per day, and that nine year olds plus get no more than 1500mg per day. Part of the proposed Smart Choices nutritional guidelines recommends limits of 480mg of sodium per serving, but makes an exception for main dishes and permits up to 600mg (again, for adults).

One teaspoon of salt has 2,325mg of sodium.

The chain's current kids meal, which features Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, apple slices cut to look like french fries with low-fat caramel dipping sauce and Hershey's low-fat milk, has 340 calories and 505 milligrams of sodium . The company said other kids meals meeting its nutrition guidelines are in development and will be launched by this summer.

Taking a look at the current state of some of those other offerings reveals the following: The 4 piece Chicken Tenders Kids Meal has 480mg of sodium and the 6 piece Big Kids Chicken Tenders Meal has 720mg of sodium. Add an ounce of BBQ dipping sauce and you add 310mg of sodium. Try an ounce of the Buffalo dipping sauce and you add 350mg of sodium.

Whopper Juniors have 570mg of sodium and if you add cheese, the Whooper Junior has 780mg of sodium. Throw on a some bacon and you add 50mg per strip. This is all before the soda and dessert.

I applaud any effort to be more nutritionally responsible, but nobody should be fooled by PR efforts into thinking that feeding your kids at Burger King is a healthy nutritional decision, particularly for those who have to watch their sodium intake. Full calorie, sodium and other nutritional information for Burger King's offerings is available on Burger King's web site.

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