World Action on Salt & Health

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30 March 2011

World Salt Awareness Week survey revealed excessively high salt (sodium) levels in many pizzas around the world, with some pizzas containing twice the salt content of the same pizzas in other countries.

  • A portion (150g) of pizza from a well known pizza manufacturer in Costa Rica is twice as salty as sea-water, containing a shocking 3.5g sodium, DOUBLE the recommended maximum daily intake.
  • A Hawaiian Pizza from Pizza Hut in New Zealand has twice the amount of sodium than the same pizza in Canada.
  • Men, in particular are putting their health at risk by eating more salt than women – in the UK men are eating the equivalent of 365 pints of salt in a lifetime

New research, carried out by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) as part of World Salt Awareness Week (21–27 March), identified that in some countries, people are being fed over twice as much salt as people elsewhere in the world. WASH surveyed the salt and sodium content of over 500 pizza products available around the world from well known international pizza outlets such as Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Eagle Boys and Papa John’s, as well as those available in supermarkets and grocery stores.

There are HUGE differences in the sodium content of pizzas around the world with even the most basic type of topping – margherita – with one margherita pizza from El Arreo in Costa Rica containing over twice the amount of sodium found in seawater!  El Arreo produces a margherita pizza which contains a shocking 2.33g/100g sodium, almost eight times higher than a UK supermarket equivalent, (Tesco’s Margherita pizza) which contained just 0.300g sodium/100g. Just a third of the El Arreo Margherita pizza (150g) contains 3.5g sodium, nearly DOUBLE the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 2g sodium for a whole day.

Even identical pizza products made by the same company were found to contain wide variations in sodium content.  For example, a Hawaiian take away pizza from Pizza Hut in New Zealand contains 0.910g sodium per 100g, over twice as much sodium compared to the same pizza from Pizza Hut in Canada (0.431g sodium per 100g).  The same can be said for pizzas from Dominoes, with a Hawaiian pizza bought from Dominoes in the USA containing 0.970g sodium per 100g, more than double the sodium compared to a Hawaiian pizza bought in the UK with 0.400g sodium per 100g.

The fact that some pizza manufacturers are able to produce pizzas with low levels of sodium demonstrates that there are no technical reasons why other pizza manufacturers are still producing pizzas with significantly higher levels of sodium, especially in light of the number of worldwide strategies to reduce sodium.

This year’s World Salt Awareness Week is focusing on ‘Salt and Men’s Health’. In the UK, over twice as many men as women die prematurely of heart disease, heart failure and stroke (34,431 vs. 16,664 adults under 75).  The World Health Organisation’s maximum daily recommendation is 2g of sodium, or 5g salt, however in the UK men currently eat about 10g of salt a day, the equivalent of 365 pints of salt in a life time, with young men eating even more.

“Eating too much sodium puts up our blood pressure, the major risk factor of cardiovascular disease (strokes, heart attacks and heart disease), the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, says Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of WASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Because of this, many countries are taking action to gradually reduce sodium intake around the world, which would save millions of lives each year”.

“It is the responsibility of multinational food companies to reduce the amount of salt they add to our food across the globe” says Clare Farrand, Public Health Nutritionist and Project Coordinator at World Action on Salt and Health. “If Pizza Hut can provide the UK with lower salt pizza, why can’t the rest of the world have them too?  It is hugely unfair for some countries to have healthier foods than others, yet food manufacturers still seem reluctant to provide their healthiest products to everybody in the world.”

See: Food Navigator article 


Highest and lowest levels in pizzas from takeaways [PDF 355KB] [PDF 355 KB]
International Pizza Survey (March 2011) - All data [PDF 1,468KB] [PDF 1.43 MB]
Pizza survey full press release [PDF 417KB] [PDF 417 KB]
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