McDonald’s: ‘Shock’ rise in sugar and salt in burgers

The amount of salt and sugar in popular McDonald’s products has rocketed in the last 30 years.

A leaflet distributed by the chain in 1989 reveals how customers now consume more than double the amount of salt and almost four times the amount of sugar in a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

The burgers had 2.6 grammes of sugar per serving in 1989, but that figure has now risen to 10 grammes per serving.

McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain, with more than 34,000 branches worldwide and 1.8 million employees.

Health specialists have voiced their concerns about the chain, which boasts 1,200 restaurants around the UK.

The 1989 leaflet shows sugar and salt content in some McDonald's products has doubled in 30 years
The 1989 leaflet shows sugar and salt content in some McDonald’s products has doubled in 30 years

Professor Graham MacGregor, chair of Action on Sugar, said: “These figures truly are shocking.

“At a time when both food manufacturers and the food service industry should be making strides to reformulate and reduce the amount of foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories, McDonald’s is clearly lagging behind.

“With PHE’s (Public Health England) plans to reformulate and cut excess calories consumption, this reinforces why it is imperative that the 20% calorie reduction targets are properly enforced and transparent.”

The 1989 leaflet, uncovered by The Sun newspaper, shows how the content of the restaurant’s menu has changed over the last three decades.

A cheeseburger has gone from having 0.4 grammes of salt and two grammes of sugar, to now containing 1.2 grammes of salt and 6.6 grammes of sugar.

A table showing the nutritional information of McDonald's products in 1989. Picture: The Sun
A table showing the nutritional information of McDonald’s products in 1989. Picture: The Sun

The number of calories in a large portion of fries is up from 335 kilocalories to 444 kilocalories, while a strawberry milkshake has 57 grammes of sugar in it now, compared to 48 grammes in 1989.

A Big Mac has three times the amount of sugar and more than double the amount of salt.

But there is some good news for fans of the chain, with the number of kilocalories in Chicken McNuggets falling from 276 to 270 and the amount of fat also reducing slightly from 16.4 grammes to 16 over the same period.

It is not known whether the size of portions has changed since 1989.

In the UK, it is estimated McDonald’s serves three million customers every day.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: “We’ve worked hard to improve our recipes and to reduce fat, salt and sugar across our entire menu, without compromising on the taste that our customers love.

“Since 2005, we’ve reduced the salt content across our entire menu by nearly 35%, the trans-fat content of our cooking oil by 94% and saturated fat by 83%, and almost 90% of our standard food and drink items now contain fewer than 500 calories.

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“For more than 30 years we have provided clear nutritional information, at point of sale and on tray liners, to help our customers make informed choices, and our menu has evolved over the years so it provides more choice than ever from salads, to wraps, to coffee, to fruit bags.

“Our support for Public Health England’s One You campaign, to provide meal options of 400 and 600 calories, is an extension of this, and part of our ongoing commitment to continue to work in partnership, to help people confidently make informed choices about what they eat at McDonald’s.”

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