NEW YORK—On Feb. l1, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced 21 companies met one or more of their voluntary commitments to reduce sodium content in prepackaged or restaurant foods as part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative, the first-ever nationwide partnership to reduce sodium in the U.S. food supply.
NSRI is a nationwide partnership of more than 90 city and state health authorities and organizations coordinated by New York City since 2009. The NSRI’s goal is to cut excess salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over five years through voluntary corporate commitments—an achievement that would reduce the nation’s sodium intake by 20%.
"Prior to our National Salt Reduction Initiative, there was no comprehensive approach to lowering sodium in foods, and many questioned whether companies would step up to meet a voluntary pledge," Bloomberg said. "These companies have demonstrated their commitment to removing excess sodium from their products and to working with public health authorities toward a shared goal—helping their customers lead longer, healthier lives."
Researchers have estimated that reducing daily sodium intake by 1,200 milligrams can prevent up to 92,000 deaths and save up to $24 billion in health care costs each year. Nearly 80% of salt in the U.S. diet comes from packaged or restaurant foods, not table salt or home cooking, making it challenging for any individual to monitor sodium intake, and choose to decrease sodium intake. Approximately, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, much of which comes from foods that do not always taste salty, such as bread, cold-cuts, cookies or tomato sauce.
The food manufacturers that met 2012 NSRI sodium targets include Butterball, Furmano Foods, Goya Foods, Heinz, Ken's Foods, Kraft Foods, LiDestri Foods/Francesco Rinaldi, Mars Foods US, McCain Foods, Mondelez International, Red Gold, Snyder's-Lance, Unilever and White Rose. Restaurant chains include Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Subway and Uno's Chicago Grill. Food retailers that met 2012 NSRI sodium targets include Delhaize America, Fresh Direct and Target Corp.
"These brands, and the executives leading them, have stepped forward to help address one of the most significant public health threats in our food supply today," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "Furthermore, these industry leaders have set the stage for all other food and beverage companies and outlets to make sodium reduction a priority."
Unlike past salt reduction efforts in the United States, the NSRI includes mechanisms to monitor sodium in the food supply and to track companies’ progress toward specific targets. In addition, the initiative will use urine analysis to monitor changes in people’s actual salt intake. The NSRI is modeled on a program in the United Kingdom, where food makers have reduced salt levels by 40% or more in some products.