Public Health Nutrition

Epidemiology

Nutritional quality of food items on fast-food ‘kids’ menus’: comparisons across countries and companies

Erin Hobina1a2 c1, Christine Whitea3, Ye Lia4a5, Maria Chiua1, Mary Fodor O'Briena1 and David Hammonda2a3

a1 Health Promotion Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Public Health Ontario, 480 University Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, ON M5G 1V2, Canada

a2 School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

a3 Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

a4 Public Health Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada

a5 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Abstract

Objective To compare energy (calories), total and saturated fats, and Na levels for ‘kids’ menu’ food items offered by four leading multinational fast-food chains across five countries.

Design A content analysis was used to create a profile of the nutritional content of food items on kids’ menus available for lunch and dinner in four leading fast-food chains in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

Setting Food items from kids’ menus were included from four fast-food companies: Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), McDonald's and Subway. These fast-food chains were selected because they are among the top ten largest multinational fast-food chains for sales in 2010, operate in high-income English-speaking countries, and have a specific section of their restaurant menus labelled ‘kids’ menus’.

Results The results by country indicate that kids’ menu foods contain less energy (fewer calories) in restaurants in the USA and lower Na in restaurants in the UK. The results across companies suggest that kids’ menu foods offered at Subway restaurants are lower in total fat than food items offered at Burger King and KFC, and food items offered at KFC are lower in saturated fat than items offered at Burger King.

Conclusions Although the reasons for the variation in the nutritional quality of foods on kids’ menus are not clear, it is likely that fast-food companies could substantially improve the nutritional quality of their kids’ menu food products, translating to large gains for population health.

(Received January 14 2013)

(Revised July 16 2013)

(Accepted July 23 2013)

(Online publication October 22 2013)

Keywords

  • Nutrition;
  • Chronic disease;
  • Population health;
  • Children

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email Erin.Hobin@oahpp.ca

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