Half of pizzas on sale in the UK contain a whole day’s allowance of salt

Posted: 17th May 2023

Source: The Guardian

Manufacturers showing ‘complete disregard for public health’, campaigners say, with some pizzas containing three days’ worth of salt.

Half the pizzas eaten in Britain contain all of the salt that government scientists say we should be eating in a day, new research reveals.

Nutritional analysis of 1,387 different pizzas bought in shops, supermarkets, takeaways and restaurants shows that one of the Domino’s range has more than three days’ worth of salt in it.

The brand’s sizzler standard mozzarella stuffed crust medium pizza emerged as the UK’s saltiest pizza in the research. It contains 21.4 grams of salt, which makes it saltier than seawater. In contrast, the maximum daily intake, as recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), is just six grams.

However, average consumption remains about 8.4g – 40% higher than the official target.

Health experts said the high levels of salt in one of the country’s favourite foods is worrying because it leads to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Action on Salt, the scientific research group which carried out the analysis, warned that the sheer amount of the substance they found in many varieties of pizza showed that the government’s repeated exhortation of the food industry to use less salt had not worked.

Indeed some brands of pizza now contain even more salt than they did when Action on Salt undertook a similar study in 2014 – which it condemned as “a disgrace”. For example, the salt content of Domino’s Tandoori Hot standard mozzarella thin and crispy crust pizza has risen over that time from 5.3g to 14.4g.

Sonia Pombo, a registered nutritionist who is the group’s campaign lead, said: “Despite our reliance on the food industry to provide us with access to better, healthier options, it’s infuriating to see some companies ignoring the overwhelming evidence in support of salt reduction and, worse still, increasing the salt content further.”

Pizza manufacturers doing so “are showing a complete disregard for public health and are making a mockery of our voluntary reformulation programme”, she added.

The salt content of pizzas and other foods is so damaging to health that ministers should extend the principle of the sugar tax to it too, to compel firms to make less salty products, the group said.

Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London who is the chair of Action on Salt, cited Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) research showing that reducing the population’s salt intake by one gram a day could save 4,000 lives a year.

Takeaway pizzas contain more than double the amount of salt found in supermarket-bought ones. Two-thirds of pizzas sold in restaurants and takeaways have 6g or more.

Zizzi, Franco Manca and Crosta & Mollica are the retailers and manufacturers with the saltiest pizzas per 100g, while Domino’s, Papa John’s and Caprinos are the worst offenders in the restaurant and takeaway sector, Action on Salt found.

However, it also identified the brands with the smallest amounts of salt per 100g. Goodfella’s, Morrisons and the Co-op are the retailers and manufacturers whose pizzas contain the lowest amounts of salt, with Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Fireaway among the restaurant and takeaway operators offering the least salty pizzas.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Thanks to our salt reduction programme, the amount of salt in food has fallen by about 20% – helping to prevent nearly 70,000 heart attacks and strokes while reducing pressure on the NHS.

“We’re also taking firm action by restricting the location of foods high in fat, salt or sugar, which will bring health benefits of over £57bn and save the NHS £4bn.

“We will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.”

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