Huge and unnecessary amounts of salt in the majority of pizzas, with many getting saltier - Call for Health Minister Steve Barclay to take action

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Huge and unnecessary amounts of salt in the majority of pizzas, with many getting saltier - Call for Health Minister Steve Barclay to take action

Huge and unnecessary amounts of salt in the majority of pizzas, with many getting saltier - Call for Health Minister Steve Barclay to take action.


One in two pizzas provide a days’ worth or more of salt per pizza, NEW research by Action on Salt reveals

Domino’s The Sizzler Standard Mozzarella Stuffed Crust Medium Pizza contains 21.38g - more than THREE TIMES the maximum daily limit (6g/day) and saltier than seawateri

In spite of a so-called Government plan to reduce salt, many pizzas now have MORE salt than they did in 2014, putting customers’ future health at an unnecessary risk

Reducing the average salt content of Domino’s pizzas alone to the current salt targets, would remove approximately over 174 tonnes salt from UK diets!

To mark Salt Awareness Week (15th-21st May), Action on Salt is calling for the Health Secretary Steve Barclay and the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to work together to enforce the salt targets (as many other countries have now done) or expand the successful Soft Drinks Industry Levy to excessively salty food

Restaurants and takeaway companies are drowning our food in salt and failing to meet the voluntary salt reduction targets as NEW research by Action on Saltii, the expert research group based at Queen Mary University of London, reveals half of all pizzas sold in the UK provide a days' worth (or more) of salt per pizzaiii.

Our current salt intake is the major factor that raises our blood pressure – the world's biggest killer (responsible for 60% of strokes and 50% of heart disease). With pizza’s providing UK adults with a whopping 3,224 tonnes of salt every year (enough to cover Wembley Stadium's football pitch with over 32cm salt!)iv, Action on Salt is now urging Steve Barclay and Jeremy Hunt to get tough on the food industry and enforce the salt targets, either by legislation, or a levy on foods that exceed the salt targets, similar to the very successful Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which achieved change without increasing price.

Out of 1,387 pizzas surveyed, takeaway pizzas contain more than double the amount of saltv than those bought in supermarkets. A staggering two in three (66%) pizzas sold in restaurants and takeaways contain 6g or more salt per pizza - the saltiest being Domino's 'The Sizzler Standard Mozzarella Stuffed Crust' medium pizza with 21.38g. That's more than three DAYS WORTH of salt in just one meal and more salt than you would find in three and a half jars of olivesvi.

The saltiest supermarket pizza is 'The Pizza Company Takeaway Pizza the Pepperoni Party' with 9.2g – saltier than 3 McDonald's Big Mac and friesvii.


Table 1. Examples of pizzas higher and lower in salt in UK (values per whole standard/medium-sized pizza)

Pizza Flavour Source Higher Pizza Salt/Whole pizza Salt/Whole Pizza Salt/Whole Pizza
Cheese Restaurant/Takeaway Domino's Original Cheese and Tomato Standard Mozzarella Double Decadence Medium Pizza 10.77 Fireaway Queen Margherita Regular Pizza 1.85
Shop bought Zizzi Rustica Pizza Margherita Classic 410g 6.92 Essential Waitrose Thin & Crispy Cheese & Tomato Pizza 300g 1.72
Pepperoni Restaurant/Takeaway Papa John's Double Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza 14.31 Bella Italia Go Lighter Half Pepperoni Pizza 4.0
Shop bought Iceland Wood Fired Stonebaked Pizza Triple Pepperoni 357g 5.60 Morrisons Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza 314g 2.46
Vegan Restaurant/Takeaway Papa John’s Vegan Sausage & Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza 11.99

Pizza Hut (Restaurant) Vegan Pepperphoni Feast Individual Thin

Shop bought Zizzi Rustica Pizza Vegan Jackfruit 400g 6.58 Goodfella's Vegan Stonebaked Meatless Mediterranean 387g 3.0


Restaurant and takeaway companies are showing minimal signs of improving the nutritional quality of their food, with one in two (50%) medium pizzas sold still exceeding respective salt targets, despite ample opportunity to complyviii. This is in stark contrast to the retail sector, where fewer than 1 in 5 (14%) exceed the maximum salt targets – a clear sign that producing pizzas with significantly less salt is easily achievable (just add less salt!).

Out of Home Pizzas are getting saltier
Despite numerous calls to reduce salt in pizzas, many restaurant and takeaway companies have failed to make any real progress in salt reduction and product reformulation. Action on Salt previously surveyed pizzas in 2014 and found that most pizzas sold in both years have INCREASED in saltix. For example, Domino's Tandoori Hot Standard Mozzarella Thin & Crispy Crust now has more salt than it did nine years ago (5.3g/pizza in 2014 vs 14.36g in 2023, more than double the salt content). Whilst reductions have been made in a few pizzas e.g., Domino's 'Mixed Grill Reduced Fat Mozzarella Classic Crust' medium pizza, down 53% from 6.91g/pizza to 3.26g/pizza, Domino's pizzas are now on average 29% higher in salt than previouslyx.

Given Domino's reportedly sell 106 million pizzas a year, if they reduced salt in line with the Government targets, they have the potential to remove approximately over 174 tonnes of salt from our dietsxi.

In contrast, some companies have successfully reduced salt overall, demonstrating it is clearly doable – pizzas produced by Goodfella's, Pizza Express (retail) and Dr Oetker are now 29%, 24% and 22% lower in salt, respectively. Pizzas sold in Zizzi and Pizza Hut delivery are now also lower in salt (6% and 8% respectively).

The leading brands producing pizzas with the lowest salt content arexii:
Retailers and manufacturers (per 100g); Goodfella's, Morrisons and the Co-operative
Restaurant and takeaway (per pizza); Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Fireaway

And those producing pizzas with the highest salt content include:
Retailers and manufacturers (per 100g); Zizzi, Franco Manca and Crosta & Mollica
Restaurant and takeaway (per pizza); Domino's, Papa John’s and Caprinos

Sonia Pombo, Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Lead at Action on Salt says: "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! These companies are showing a complete disregard for public health and are making a mockery of our voluntary reformulation programme. We know it is possible to reduce salt in pizzas, as demonstrated by some responsible businesses, so there is no reason why others can’t also do so."

Mhairi Brown, Registered Nutritionist and Policy Lead at Action on Salt says: "The Government showed brilliant leadership when it launched the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, a tax on sugary drinks manufacturers that lowered the amount of sugar the nation was unknowingly drinking without raising prices. The Chancellor must now expand this successful levy to food companies who refuse to lower excessive salt levels in their food, to protect our health, our economy and our NHS."

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Salt says: "Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to lower blood pressure and reduce the number of people suffering from strokes and heart disease and life changing disabilities associated with this – all of which is completely avoidable. According to the Department of Health & Social Care, each one gram/day reduction in population salt intake, saves more than 4,000 premature deaths per year. Given this, it’s a disgrace that food companies continue to fill our food with so much salt when there is the option to reformulate, which our research shows can easily be done. The Government must act now for the benefit of our future health, and furthermore save the NHS many billions of pounds."

i. Atlantic seawater contains 1.0g of sodium per 100g, which equates to 2.5g of salt per 100g
ii. Please see Action on Salt's Report on Pizzas for more detail. Action on Salt surveyed 1387 pizzas from supermarkets and leading restaurants and takeaway chains with available nutritional information between January and March 2023. Product data for supermarket pizza was collected from product packaging in leading supermarkets (Aldi, ASDA, The Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) and online for restaurants and takeaway establishments (ASK Italian, Bella Italia, Caprinos, Domino's, Fireaway Pizza, JD Wetherspoons, O'Neill's, Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery, Papa John's, Pizza Express, Pizza Hut, Zizzi). All pizzas sold in supermarkets and restaurants were surveyed, and only medium sized pizzas were surveyed from takeaway establishments. Figures in this release are based on the nutritional information provided, and have been shared with companies for verification ahead of its release.
iii. Maximum daily intakes for an adult is 6g/day, about a level teaspoon, and even less for children. SACN Salt & Health Report 2003
iv. According to Statista, average consumption of pizza is 88g/week. With 53,369,083 adults reportedly living in the UK, this equates to 244,217 tonnes of pizza consumed in the UK every year. Assuming an average salt content of pizza at 1.32g/100g, we estimate 3223.7 tonnes salt come from pizzas in the UK. Wembley Stadium's football pitch is 105m long by 69m wide. Using the density of salt as 1.378g/cm3, we could cover Wembley Stadiums pitch with 32.15cm salt
v. Salt content of pizzas in supermarkets average 9g per pizza, compared to 5.56g in restaurants and 8.98g in takeaway and delivery companies. Action on Salt Report on Pizzas, 2023.
vi. Tesco green pitted olives contain 0.62g in a portion. With each jar containing 10 portions, 1 jar would provide 6.2g salt.
vii. McDonald's Big Mac contains 2.2g salt McDonald's medium fries contains 0.62g salt
viii. PHE (2020). Salt reduction targets for 2024. Three out of the 6 pizza targets have not changed since they were set in 2014. PHE’s second progress report on the 2017 salt targets also showed poor progress towards the pizza targets.
ix. Action on Salt 2014 survey on pizza
x. This is based on direct comparisons of 268 Domino's pizzas available in both 2014 and 2023. Average salt content was 7.97g/pizza in 2014 and 10.29g/pizza in 2023. See Appendix 6 of the report for more detail
xi. Domino's report to sell 106 million pizzas a year in UK and the Republic of Ireland. Assuming all those pizzas were medium in size, with an average salt content of 9.71g salt per pizza (the average of all Domino's medium pizzas with an applicable target included in this research), that is 1,029 tonnes salt per year from Domino's pizza. Reducing salt in line with their respective government targets would reduce their average salt content to 8.07g salt per pizza (only a 1.64g reduction), therefore removing 174 tonnes salt.
xii. Companies were ranked highest to lowest according to average salt content of their complete range of pizzas. For retailers and manufacturers this was done on a per 100g basis, and per pizza for restaurants and takeaways. Companies with fewer than four pizzas were not mentioned

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