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Different country, different nutritional content?

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Did you know your favorite fast-food chicken sandwich in the U.S. may have 20 percent more sodium than the same sandwich sold in the U.K.? And you might be getting almost twice as much sodium in your rice cereal if you get it in the U.S. instead of in Germany or Italy?

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A new study from the U.K.-based group World Action on Salt and Health surveyed a sample of popular foods worldwide and found a big difference in sodium levels of the same foods from the same brands but sold in different countries. Examples of how popular foods in the United States measured up include:

  • A fast-food hamburger had 960 milligrams (mg) sodium in the U.S., but 840 mg in the U.K., while a fast-food chicken sandwich had 800 mg sodium in the U.S., but 640 mg in the U.K.
  • A serving of corn cereal had 200 mg sodium in the U.S., but 150 mg in Spain, while a serving of rice cereal had 220 mg sodium in the U.S., but 120 mg in Italy and Germany

nutrition label sodium 120mg

This leads to the question of why should people in some countries get less salt in their food than in other countries? And why doesn’t the food supply have the same levels of salt in similar foods even if they are sold in different countries? If the salt can be lower in a given food in one country, I would like to see the lower level of salt in that same food in the U.S. too.

You might think that more salt in some of these foods is due to variation in people’s taste preferences by region or country. Yet there wasn’t a certain country that consistently had the saltiest foods in the survey.

The survey also showed that some foods have been getting lower in salt over the past several years, and that’s great news. This is encouragement that there is still room for progress in reducing the sodium in America’s food supply, and we hope it makes you even more motivated to help the American Heart Association advocate for these changes in the food we buy.

What do you think about the fact that some of your favorite foods might have less salt in other countries, but not here in the U.S.? Does it make you more likely to want to ask for change in the American food supply?