Pizzas from restaurant chains, take-aways and supermarkets contain dangerously high levels of salt, with one pizza at a London restaurant offering a pizza saltier than seawater.
That's the finding from new research from pressure group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM), which together surveyed 199 margherita and pepperoni pizzas across the country.
Take-away pizzas were found to be the worst offenders, containing up to two-and-a-half times more salt than the average supermarket pizza (2.73g vs 1.08g salt/100g). One take-away pizza outlet, the Adam and Eve in Barnet, was found to be selling a pizza saltier than sea water, containing 2.73g per 100g - the equivalent of 10.57g per pizza.
The top five saltiest take-away pizzas were:
1 The Adam & Eve pepperoni pizza (Barnet, London) - 2.73g salt per 100g (10.57g per 388g pizza)
2 La Vera Italia pepperoni pizza (Wandsworth, London) - 2.43g salt per 100g (10.68g per 439.6g pizza)
3 Ciao Bella pepperoni pizza (Havering, London) - 2.21g salt per 100g (9.22g per 417.4g pizza)
4 Ciao Bella margherita pizza (Havering, London) - 2.13g per 100g (7.69g per 361.8g pizza)
5 Il Mascal Zone pepperoni pizza (Barnet, London) - 2.08g salt per 100g (9.21g per 443g pizza)
The survey also found that half of all the take-away pizzas surveyed contain an adult's entire 6g maximum daily recommended amount of salt per pizza.
"It is surprising there is still so much salt hidden in everyday foods" said Katharine Jenner, campaign director of CASH. "It should be up to us how much salt we eat, but while there is so much salt in our food, people are unable to choose a healthier diet and are, therefore, putting themselves at risk of a stroke. This is why we are highlighting hidden sources of salt in our food for Salt Awareness Week. "
"It's a national disgrace that our health is put at risk - the government is not taking enough action to reduce the amount of salt in the take-away sector. The supermarkets have made the same pizzas with much less salt - showing how easy it would be for the whole sector to make big salt reductions" said Prof Graham MacGregor, Wolfson Institute, chairman of CASH. "Salt puts up our blood pressure - the highest risk factor for stroke. Reducing our intake would save thousands of people suffering and dying from a stroke."
Take-away pizza businesses don't have to provide any form of nutritional labelling. In the supermarket sector, where labelling is compulsory, eight out of 10 pizzas (85%) provided some form of front-of-pack nutrition information and three-quarters of supermarket pizzas (72%) currently meet the salt target.
A Pizza Express margherita pizza from a supermarket contains almost half (43%) the amount of salt per 100g than the restaurant take-away equivalent (0.85g vs. 1.493g salt per 100g), according to the survey. Packaging on Pizza Express pizzas in shops also recommend on the pack that consumers only eat half the pizza, despite being served whole to individual customers in restaurants.
The top five saltiest supermarket pizzas were:
1 Tesco full-on-flavour simply pepperoni thin stone-baked pizza (fresh)- 1.8g salt/100g (4.77g per 265g pizza)
2 Iceland stonebaked spicy double pepperoni pizza (frozen) - 1.7g salt/100g (6.29g per 370g pizza)
3 Morrisons extra thin triple pepperoni pizza (frozen) - 1.7g salt/100g (5.81g per 342g pizza)
4 Dr Oetker ristorante pizza pepperoni salame (frozen) - 1.68g salt/100g (5.36g per 320g pizza)
5 Dr Oetker casa di mama pizza quattro formaggi (frozen) - 1.6g salt/100g (6.32g per 395g pizza)
Helen Clark, the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM), said: "With the Director of Public Health coming back into local authorities, there is an ideal opportunity for more work to be done to improve health at a local level. Small independent outlets are enthusiastic about improving the food they sell and through the ALEHM and the Healthy Catering Commitment scheme we are able to support them to do so. We will be taking the pizza leaflet into food businesses on our visits and discussing with them how they can reduce the salt and fat content in their pizzas, and we will also encourage them to offer healthier choices and smaller portion sizes"
By Neil Gerrard
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