America looks at salt reduction targets

Posted by Isobel Drake on 12th January 2010

A New York City-led partnership of cities, states and national health organizations in America has unveiled its proposed targets to guide a voluntary reduction of salt levels in packaged and restaurant foods.

The National Salt Reduction Initiative said the plan was to slash salt consumption, with consumption almost twice the recommended level.

Through a year of technical consultation with food industry leaders, the National Salt Reduction Initiative has developed specific targets to help companies reduce the salt levels in 61 categories of packaged food and 25 classes of restaurant food. Some popular products already meet these targets, the group said, and a number of global food manufacturers have recently moved to cut salt levels across their brand portfolio.

The goal of the initiative – likely to be finalised in the American Spring – is to cut the salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over five years – an achievement that would reduce the nation’s salt intake by 20%.

“Consumers can always add salt to food, but they can’t take it out,” said Dr Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “At current levels, the salt in our diets poses health risks for people with normal blood pressure, and it’s even riskier for the 1.5 million New Yorkers with high blood pressure. If we can reduce the sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods, we will give consumers more choice about the amount of salt they eat, and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the process.”

Once finalised, the targets will provide a framework for reducing sodium in the nation’s food supply – and a way to monitor progress. The initiative includes two-year and four-year targets for each category of food. If a company commits to the sodium target in a particular food category, the target will apply to its overall portfolio in that category – not to each individual product.

A company selling three equally popular lines of crackers could keep one type extra salty as long as its overall cracker portfolio met the target for crackers, measured in milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of cracker.

The plans are hoped to continue a trend toward food industry and government collaboration over the reduction of salt consumption.

The proposed targets are posted at