April 27, 2010

Companies Team Up For Salt Reduction Initiative

In a campaign started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 16 U.S. food companies pledged Monday to cut salt levels in their food products.

Bloomberg's campaign, the National Salt Reduction Initiative, is a grouping of cities and health organizations that are working to reduce salt content in restaurants and packaged foods by 25 percent within the next five years.

Companies who pledged to join the initiative include Au Bon Pain, Goya, Mars Food US, Kraft, Starbucks, Heinz, Subway, UNO Chicago Grill, White Rose and others.

Heinz said it will reduce the sodium content in its ketchup and marinades, while Boar's Head will cut salt down in its cured meats, cold cuts and sausages.

"By working together over the past two years, we have been able to accomplish something many said was impossible -- setting concrete, achievable goals for salt reduction," Bloomberg said in a statement.

Researchers found that hundreds of thousands of people could drastically reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes if only 10 percent of their salt intake was cut out. The cuts would also save the United States $32 billion in health costs.

The Institute of Medicine said high blood pressure, potentially caused by high salt intake, is a "neglected disease" that costs the health system $73 billion a year in the United States.

Restaurants and packaged foods have been targeted mainly because only 11 percent of sodium in American diets is added by the consumer. Nearly 80 percent of sodium is added to foods before they reach the consumer, according to the New York City Health Department.

800,000 Americans die each year from high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. Salt intake has increased dramatically over the past 30 plus years, with Americans consuming nearly twice the recommended daily limit.

Bloomberg has become a strong advocate for healthy living. He has banned smoking and trans fat and has required restaurants to post calorie counts on their menu items. He has also campaigned to reduce or eliminate sugar-filled drinks.


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