1 pizza could equal 7 Big Macs’ worth of salt, says CASH

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

48% of UK pizzas contain over the 6g maximum salt limits recommended for a whole day, according to public health lobby groups
48% of UK pizzas contain over the 6g maximum salt limits recommended for a whole day, according to public health lobby groups

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Supermarket, restaurant and takeaway pizzas contain ‘shockingly high’ levels of salt, according to a product survey by pressure groups CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) and WASH (World Action on Salt & Health).

Almost half of the 1,267 UK pizzas tested exceeded the national maximum recommended salt limit of 6g a day. This rate was yet higher for the 802 restaurants and takeaway pizzas surveyed where 73% exceeded these intakes for the whole day – with five including Papa John's Stuffed Crust Sausage & Pepperoni and Domino’s Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Passion pizza found to contain 16g of salt, the equivalent of seven Big Macs.  

The organisations said the results revealed failings in salt reduction government targets and industry pledges. They said little had been done to reduce these levels since it conducted similar tests back in 2012, with 59% of the pizzas mentioned in both surveys either retaining the same salt content or increasing it.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH and WASH, said reducing salt intakes globally could save millions of lives each year by reducing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

“At the World Health Assembly in May 2013 it was unanimously agreed that all countries should reduce their daily salt intake by 30% towards a target of up to 5g per day, by 2025. Our survey has shown that many pizza manufacturers are still adding very large and completely unnecessary amounts of salt to their pizzas. This is completely unacceptable and our advice is to avoid eating pizzas from these manufacturers,” ​Professor MacGregor, also behind lobby group Action on Sugar, said.

CASH nutritionist Sonia Pombo said most people of weren’t aware of how much salt they were actually eating on a daily basis, and therefore the health danger they were putting themselves in.

“With three-quarters of our salt intakes coming from processed foods such as pizza, how are any of us able to choose a healthier diet? We need the food industry to help us improve our diet, not to hide three times more salt than is recommended in a day in a single pizza!​”

Huge variation speaks volumes

They said some pizza manufacturers were able to produce the same pizzas with much lower levels, suggesting this did not pose a great technical challenge.

WASH also surveyed 565 pizza products from supermarkets, takeaways and restaurants across 11 countries, revealing 310 contained more salt than the 5g maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  The saltiest pizza was the Pizza Hut Meat Lovers Thin 'n' Crispy in the US, which contained five times the WHO guideline at 23.6g of salt per large pizza.

Clare Farrand, international programme leader for WASH, said:“We urge all pizza manufacturers to reduce salt in all pizzas to the lowest level in all countries if we are to tackle the huge and burdening problem of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.”

In some cases levels had increased since 2012, for example Sainsbury's Thin & Crispy Cheese & Tomato Pizza which had 0.88g/100g in 2012 compared to 1.3g/100g now.

“This demonstrates a complete halt in progress and a clear lack of commitment from the food industry,”​ CASH and WASH said.

Success stories

However, it wasn’t all negative. The pair pinpointed Sainsbury’s Thin & Crispy Pepperoni Pizza and Pizza Huts’ Medium Italian base Margherita Pizza as two reduction “success stories”​ – lowering levels from 1.35g/100g in 2012 to 0.78g/100g in 2014 and 4.96g per pizza in 2012 to 3.84g in 2014, respectively. 

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