Cheese fanatics across the country went wild last week when McDonald’s revealed halloumi fries were coming to its menu for the first time ever.
But obesity campaigners say the fast food giant’s offering is ‘disappointing’.
Analysis shows one portion of the cheesy sticks, £2.49 for four, contains 1.28g of salt — making them saltier than two portions of its famous chips (0.62g) and four packets of Walkers’ ready salted crisps (0.34g).
Its bigger helping, consisting of ‘scrumptious’ 12 sticks, is packed full of 3.85g of salt.
Dietitians told MailOnline it was plausible for adults to eat an entire £6.49 sharer box by themselves, and that many would be unaware of just how salty halloumi is.
As well as tucking into two-thirds of their daily salt intake (6g a day), the box contains 630 calories — the same as two cheeseburgers.
However, the new halloumi bites, set to grace menus at McDonald’s from July 27, were the healthiest option out of similar products on sale at rivals Nando’s and Burger King, as well as frozen offerings at Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
HOW MCDONALD’S NEW BURGERS STACK UP AGAINST THE BIG MAC
CRISPY CHICKEN ITALIANO
THE ITALIAN STACK
THE CHICKEN FIESTA
THE SPICY SPANISH STACK
Britons are advised to eat no more than 6g of salt each day. Eating too much can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
MailOnline analysed all of the fast food chain’s new items, which include four burgers, halloumi fries, mozzarella dippers, summer punch and a tiramisu McFlurry.
Half of the chain’s ‘Taste of Italy’ line are already on sale, available until July 26.
This includes mozzarella dippers, Crispy Chicken Italiano burger, the Italian Stack and Tiramisu McFlurry.
A ‘Taste of Cyprus and Spain’ range, including the halloumi fries, the Chicken Fiesta, the Spicy Spanish Stack and the Spanish Fruit Punch, will be sold between July 27 to September 6.
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, told MailOnline that some people might opt for halloumi fries not realising that the salty cheese has more than half of their daily allowance.
He added: ‘It is quite possible adding the halloumi fries to something like the Chicken Fiesta will give you over half your energy needs and more than the recommended amount of salt.
‘Some people might lean toward halloumi fries, not only for the taste but also for the extra protein — not being aware of the extra salt that comes with it.’
The Chicken Fiesta burger contains 3.2g of salt on its own, meaning in combination with a 12-pack of halloumi fries Brits would exceed their daily intake by 1g.
However, McDonald’s halloumi fries are healthier than options available at other food chains and supermarkets, MailOnline’s analysis showed.
Nando’s offering, which cost £4.25 for five, is the worst offender, with an extra 242 calories (452 calories) and 1.1g of salt (2.4g).
Burger King’s version, sold as six sticks for £3.79, contain 78 more calories (288 calories) per portion than McDonald’s and an extra 0.8g of salt (2.1g of salt).
Meanwhile, Tesco and Sainsbury’s halloumi fries (both £2 for a pack of 10) have 18 more calories than McDonald’s (228 calories) and 0.9g more of salt (1.56g salt), per four sticks.
McDonald’s has also brought back mozzarella dippers for the summer, with a single portion of three, which costs £1.99, containing 1.1g of salt and 256 calories.
Meanwhile, a £5.39 nine-piece sharing box has 38 per cent of an adult’s daily calories (769) and more than half the salt (3.4g).
Dr Mellor said it is ‘a little surprising’ the mozzarella dippers are as salty, as regular mozzarella usually has around a quarter of the salt that halloumi contains. But he said that the frying process concentrates the salt, increasing the amount.
Other items on the new menu include four burgers that are all more calorific and salty than a Big Mac, which contains 493 calories and 2.2g salt.
The NHS tells men to eat around 2,500 calories per day to maintain their body weight, while the average woman needs 2,000 calories daily. Consuming too many calories can lead to obesity, which affects a quarter of Brits and raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and having a stroke.
The Italian Stack (648 calories, 2.5g salt) and Crispy Chicken Italiano (638 calories, 2.5g salt) have around a third more calories and are 0.3g saltier.
Dr Carmen Piernas, a researcher and nutrition scientist at the University of Oxford, told MailOnline that halloumi fries and other items on McDonald’s menu are ‘usually eaten in combination with other high salt foods’, leading people to exceed their daily allowances in just one meal.
Sonia Pombo, campaign manager at Action on Salt, said: ‘McDonald’s new spring/summer menu certainly doesn’t shine when it comes to salt reduction judging by some of the new food items introduced.
‘Worryingly, some of these contain well over half of an adult’s recommended salt intake and exceed their respective salt targets.
‘At this crucial time when the hospitality sector should be putting the nation’s health before their profits and improving the nutritional quality of their meal offering, this latest data is very disappointing indeed.
‘This reinforces the urgent need for mandatory salt reduction targets to be introduced without delay.’
McDonald’s is also serving up a new tiramisu flavoured McFlurry this summer. The dessert, which costs £1.69 for a regular version, has 349 calories and 44g of sugar. This is equivalent to nearly four Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts, which have 12g of sugar per portion.
And a fruit punch on sale this summer for £2.61 has just 83 calories but 19.9g of sugar. This is as much as KitKat Chunky (20g).
A sugar-heavy diet can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. The NHS recommends eating no more than 30g of added sugar per day.
Dr Mellor said the sugar in the sweet treat could ‘potentially exceed the recommended free sugar intake for an adult’ and easily do so for a child.
‘When looking at a menu like this it is important to look at combinations as adding two or three of these foods together could mean consuming too much sugar and salt in one sitting,’ he added.
It comes as Boris Johnson yesterday told fat Britons that ‘eating less’ is the best way to lose weight.
The Prime Minister, who has repeatedly battled his own bulge, ruled out taxing sugary and salty food amid the cost of living crisis.
A levy was recommended by his own food tsar, Leon-founder Henry Dimbleby, who wanted food manufacturers and restaurants to pay an extra £3 or £6 per kg of sugar and salt, respectively.
McDonald’s is also serving up a new tiramisu flavoured McFlurry this summer. The dessert, which costs £1.69 for a regular version, has 349 calories and 44g of sugar. This is equivalent to nearly four Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts, which have 12g of sugar per portion. And a fruit punch on sale this summer for £2.61 has just 83 calories but 19.9g of sugar. This is as much as KitKat Chunky (20g)
But the radical proposal, dubbed ‘nanny state meddling’, was not included in No10’s new food plan.
Eton-educated Mr Dimbleby claimed the strategy failed to deliver what was needed in the fight against obesity. Six in 10 Britons are overweight or obese, and this figure is set to rise to seven in 10 by 2040. The NHS already spends more than £6billion per year treating obesity-related health problems.
Mr Johnson, however, defended the move on a trip to the Southern England Farms in Hayle, Cornwall.
He told reporters: ‘What we don’t want to do right now is start whacking new taxes on them that will just push up the cost of food…
‘Of course we’ve got to champion healthy eating, got to help people to lose weight, there are all sorts of ways of doing that. The best way to lose weight, believe me, is to eat less.’
Mr Johnson last month U-turned on rules which would have banned BOGOF and other multi-buy junk food deals from October. Free refills of sugary soft drinks will also be allowed for another year, despite plans to axe them.
However, from October ministers are going ahead with plans that will see foods high in fat, sugar or salt banned from checkouts and store entrances. And rules came into effect in April requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 staff to list calories on their menus.