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Sodium in Kids' Meals

The group also identified five restaurant kids' meals containing more than twice the recommended daily sodium intake for kids of 1,200 milligrams in a single meal.

  • Red Lobster Chicken Fingers, biscuit, fries, and raspberry lemonade, at 2,430 milligrams of sodium.
  • Chili's Country Fried Chicken Crispers with rice and 1% milk at 2,385 milligrams of sodium.
  • KFC Popcorn Chicken with macaroni and cheese, Teddy Grahams, and 2% milk at 2,005 milligrams of sodium.
  • Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Strips, Buffalo Sauce, fries, and 1% milk at 1,980 milligrams of sodium.
  • Olive Garden Chicken Fingers, fries, and raspberry lemonade at 1,835 milligrams of sodium.

The group petitioned the FDA in 2005 to consider regulating the amount of salt in the U.S. food supply. The agency held a public meeting with consumer groups and companies in 2007 but has not moved to regulate salt or sodium in restaurant or packaged food.

Beth Johnson, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, says in a statement that the industry has made "tremendous strides" in the sodium content of restaurant food.

The group supports restaurant food labeling legislation that could make it easier for consumers to know what is in their food, Johnson says. "Our members have introduced a range of menu choices during the past year and will continue to explore new options and alternatives to meet the needs of consumers."

Until restaurants cut the salt content of their food, Jacobson urges consumers to eat out less, order smaller portions, or use the Internet to look up sodium content and other information on restaurant web sites before they go out.

Jacobson acknowledges that "about three" consumers in the whole country were likely to research a chain restaurant before dining out.

British Take Strides in Lowering Sodium

In Britain, where the government's Foods Standards Agency has made sodium reduction a priority, a 9% reduction in the nation's sodium intake has been documented since the start of that program. The five-year goal is a one-third reduction.

The program in Britain emphasizes public education and has been pressuring the food and restaurant industries to lower sodium content of foods. U.S. versions of McDonald's staples such as Chicken McNuggets, french fries, and Big Macs contain 57% more sodium, on average, than their British counterparts.

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