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

Hi 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? Thanks, Salt Of The Earth

Photo: Domino's Pizza

Dear SOTE,

Table salt 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 many popular pizza toppings such as pepperoni and bacon. Subsequently, a single pizza from Domino's or Pizza Hut will usually contain more sodium chloride 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. Much like with fat content, many fast food companies have been cutting back on salt in recent years, but this is entirely voluntary. Usually, it represents a commercial push into the health food demographic although pressure from health campaigners has also been known to play a 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 nutritional information 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 'traditional' range contains 251mg of sodium per slice, while a Double Bacon Cheeseburger pizza from the same menu contains a whopping 465mg. Opting for a thin crust can also cut down on the salt content due to the smaller volume of dough.

If any readers have salt reduction tips of their own, let SOTE know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Best pizza dough = Flour + Greek Yoghurt
    no salt added.

      Whoops - my comment below was meant to be a reply to you!

    I don't eat pizza from Pizza Hut or Dominos regularly, but when I have I don't really remember them being overly salty.

    Problem is easily solved by not eating at those locations though....

    Last edited 21/10/13 2:49 pm

      I've also never noticed pizza as being salty. If anything, I'd have said some of the sauces and bases seem a bit sweet.

      Also, salt unfairly gets a bad rap from the days when they persecuted it as a catch-all for blood pressure/cholesterol. In fact, having too little is just as bad for you as having too much. If high salt intake is contributing to your heart problems, then reducing it is good. If high salt intake ISN'T contributing to your problems, then reducing 'just in case' it is bad. Too many folks don't bother to check the difference.

      (Edit: Admittedly with the modern Australian diet, you're incredibly unlikely to be getting too little salt unintentionally. But if you actively intend to cut it out of your diet, you can definitely do so to harmful degrees.)

      Last edited 21/10/13 8:27 pm

        Yep good call. I happen to actually have quite low sodium readings in my blood tests and am one of the people who doesn't have to worry about consuming salty foods.

        That's certainly not the case for Australian's on aggregate though.

        This is the problem with public health dietary recommendations. They represent what most people should do because the audience is most people. It doesn't necessarily represent what is the optimum diet (and shouldn't because interventions are required). It can confuse the issue sometimes though because things like sodium and saturated fat can be perceived as inherently bad when in fact they are actually essential (in the right amounts) for numerous physiological processes.

    It's a pity about Greek Yoghurt's noxious acid whey byproduct. I hope they find something useful to do with it on a large scale soon. Arla Foods seem to be doing good things....

      I know personally of several research groups in Australian universities working with Dairy producers to solve this issue.

    The saltiest pizza I've ever had was an authentic Italian pizza in Rome, with whole anchovy fillets. It was so salty my wife and I literally couldn't eat it.

    Maybe Bender was cooking
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AefYphvkOts

    It's to mask the taste of old ingredients

    What you should do instead is find a good local woodfired gourmet pizza place
    You'll never ever eat at Pizza Hutt or Dominos again, and you'll be supporting your local community

      So glad I have one across the road from me :D

      Okay, I have to ask... Did you call it "Pizza Hutt" on purpose? Or was that just an awesomely appropriate typo? :D

        Isn't that how it's spelt?
        I don't eat pizza hutt

          Awww, I was hoping for the awesomely appropriate typo. But no, they spell it 'Hut' with a single 't'. http://www.pizzahut.com.au/

    You actually want the government to regulate the nutritional composition of your $4.95 pizza?

      Technically they already do, to an extent. But yeah, it's a bit much to go after salt as well, especially since it's cooked-in, not an additive. :)

    Has anyone tried to cut out salt of any kind for 2 days and then try eating anything from the fast food joints? Good experiment. Try it. If I eat a pizza from take away place, it has to be last resort.

    The thing with salt and pre-made food products is the market tends to reject the product when a high level of salt is removed - 20% +
    I know major brands are reducing salt levels in products such as pizza, but they are doing it in incremental stages- 5% per year for example.
    I know campbells were reducing salt in pre canned soup in a similar fashion, but when they hit 15% reduction the market rejected it (dramatic sales drop), so they threw it all back in.
    I think over the coming years you should expect salt levels to decrease, its just a matter of weening the marketplace off it.

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