Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Australian Heart Foundation Causes Uproar by Giving "Healthy Tick" to Chain's Takeaway Pizzas

First it was hamburgers that got a health makeover; now it's the turn of pizza.

The National Heart Foundation in Australia is to award its well-known red tick of approval to a chain of takeaway pizzerias on the grounds they are much better for you than mass-market alternatives. pizza tick

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bars, which has 16 stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, created six new pizzas to win the accolade.

Announcing the move, the Heart Foundation took a swipe at national chains Pizza Hut and Domino's, saying their pizzas were laden with up to four times the amount of saturated fat and more than twice the amount of salt as Crust's. The Heart Foundation said it analysed nine comparable types of pizza from Pizza Hut, Domino's and Crust.

The Heart Foundation's food supply strategy director Susan Anderson said the foundation was "horrified at the results".

"Pizza from the two top chains contained on average more than 5g of salt and 20g of saturated fat, which is what you should be getting in one day, not one meal," she said.

"It was clear that this industry needed some nutritional benchmarks, so we've taken action to give this industry the shake-up it needs."

pizza tick2One of the freshly ticked pizzas – the roast chicken pizza with button mushrooms, sweet potato, roasted tomato, baked ricotta and mozzarella – has just 5.3g of saturated fat and 880mg of sodium, compared with 20.7g of fat and 2087mg of sodium in a comparable Domino's pizza.

The foundation's latest foray into fast food looks set to reignite a controversy it created last year, when it teamed up with McDonald's to award the tick to nine meal combinations.

However, none of the approved meals included the US-based chain's signature fries, leading to criticism from some nutritionists that many people would negate the benefits by ordering unhealthy extras.

Companies pay annual fees to the Heart Foundation for the right to display the tick, which the foundation says covers the costs of random audits and testing.

In the case of restaurants and takeaway outlets, the fee is based on the number of branches.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said the danger of the new tick was that it might give people the impression pizzas were healthy.

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