Ask LH: Is It Legal For Takeaway Pizza To Be This Salty?

Dear Lifehacker, Why is all pizza these days so freaking salty? I don't just mean somewhat salty; I mean if I made my own and dropped the salt shaker in it that would still be less salty than my local Domino's or Pizza Hut. Can they add so much salt? Surely that can't be healthy. Do pizza makers have to comply with any rules in this area or can they legally add as much salt as they want? Thanks, Salt Of The Earth

Photo: Domino's Pizza

Dear SOTE,

Sodium is one of the cheapest flavour additives on the market, which means it tends to be overused by the fast food industry. On top of this, salt is already an integral component of pizza dough and quite a few popular pizza toppings such as pepperoni and bacon. Subsequently, a single pizza from Domino's or Pizza Hut will usually contain more sodium than the recommended daily intake for an average adult (2300 milligrams).

Excessive salt intake has been known to contribute to cardiovascular disease and other serious medical problems. However, there are currently no laws restricting its use in manufactured foods. (Australia New Zealand Food Standards prohibit claims that food is "low in salt" if it contains more than 120 mg of sodium per 100 g of the food, but that's as far as the law goes.)

Much like with fat content, many fast food companies have been cutting back on salt in recent years in a bid to improve their image. Currently, this is entirely voluntary. (Although pressure from health campaigners and the mandatory disclosure of nutritional content have doubtlessly played their part.) In any event, the pizza chains aren't doing anything illegal.

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do about this when it comes to ordering pizza. Because the salt resides inside the ingredients (rather than being sprinkled on top) it's not something you can ask them to "hold". Your best bet is to make your own pizza using salt-reduced dough.

Failing that, cast a critical eye over the nutrition page of your favourite pizza chain's menu - some have lower sodium content which should translate to a less salty flavour. For example, a Garlic Prawn pizza from Domino's contains 230mg of sodium per slice, while a Big Three Meats Pizza from the same menu contains a whopping 731mg. Opting for a thin crust can also cut down on the salt content due to the smaller volume of dough.

Cheers Lifehacker

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