With more consumers purchasing meals outside the home, fast food products contribute substantially to daily energy intakes. Improving the nutrient composition of fast food would have significant health benefits. Nutrient content data for menu items provided by nine companies representing >90% of the fast food market in Australia were collected. Mean nutrient levels were compared between product categories and compared to currently accepted criteria for healthy foods. The majority of fast food products did not meet criteria for healthy options. Breakfast items had the highest mean sugar content (7.8 g/100 g) and saturated fat (5.5 g/100 g), and chicken items the highest total fat (13.2 g/100 g) and sodium (586 mg/100 g). There was marked variation in nutrient levels between similar products. There was a 10-fold variation in the total fat, saturated fat and sugar content of sandwiches, an 8-fold variation in saturated fat in burgers and >20-fold variation in the sugar and total fat content of salads. Differences were even greater per serve. The considerable variation in the nutrient content of comparable products suggests significant potential for reformulation. Even small improvements in composition could produce important health gains if implemented across all product categories by all companies in unison.
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