State Health, Agriculture Departments Thank Food Companies for Commitment to Reducing Added Salt in Food

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2010) – The State Commissioners of Health and of Agriculture and Markets joined its partners in the National Salt Reduction Initiative – a national coalition of more than 45 public agencies and health organizations – in commending the 16 food and restaurant companies that have committed publicly to reducing the dangerous level of salt in the American diet. The companies, which include such giants as Kraft and Unilever, as well as the Starbucks and Subway restaurant chains, are taking an important first step in an effort that could ultimately save tens of thousands of lives.

The commitments were announced April 26 in New York City, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg launched the salt reduction initiative two years ago. The National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI) includes two- and four-year salt reduction targets for 62 packaged food and 25 restaurant food categories. Once a company commits to a target, the target applies to its overall portfolio in that category – not to each individual product.

The goal is to reduce the country's salt intake by at least 20 percent during the next five years through the use of these targets. The initiative will track sales and sodium levels in the food supply to monitor the companies' progress toward their goals. Altogether, these 16 companies have made commitments in 80 percent of the packaged food categories and 60 percent of the restaurant categories.

New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said, "Most people don't realize how much salt is in their canned or packaged food. We appreciate the concern shown by food manufacturers and restaurants that support the salt reduction effort, and believe the Initiative will help raise awareness of the issue."

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said, "Here at the Department of Agriculture and Markets, we encourage healthy eating habits by promoting locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other local farm products including milk and meat.  We understand eating fresh and local cannot always be achieved.  Therefore, we applaud all of the National Salt Reduction Initiative partners in their efforts to reduce sodium intake and ultimately in helping consumers lead a more healthy lifestyle, whether eating whole foods at home, or processed and prepared foods out of the home."

Americans consume approximately twice the recommended limit of sodium each day, and 80 percent of it is added to food before we buy it. Even highly motivated people have trouble controlling their salt intake when packaged and restaurant foods deliver such large doses. Excessive salt intake is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading cause of preventable death.

The Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded in an authoritative report issued April 20 that coordinated public action will be required to address the issue. The report recommends that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use its regulatory authority to reduce salt in the nation's food supply, but it also notes that public-private partnerships can "achieve meaningful reductions in sodium intake prior to the implementation of mandatory standards." The NSRI begins this process. (To read the report, visit http://www.iom.edu)

Regulation is a slow process – one that could take a decade or more – and lives are being lost in the meantime. In its summary recommendations, the IOM report states, "the food industry, government, professional organizations, and public health partners should work together to promote voluntary collaborations to reduce sodium in foods." Though the NSRI is not a regulatory scheme, it is rooted in measurement and accountability. It equips the nation to take action today – and it provides a framework for monitoring progress.

Contacts

  • New York City Mayor's Office: Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti (212) 788-2958
  • New York City Health Department: Erin Brady/Celina DeLeon (212) 788-5290
  • New York State Department of Health: Claudia Hutton
  • New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets: Jessica Ziehm

Companies Committed to the National Salt Reduction Initiative

  • Au Bon Pain
  • Boar's Head
  • Fresh Direct
  • Goya
  • Hain Celestial
  • Heinz
  • Kraft
  • LiDestri
  • Mars Food
  • McCain Foods
  • Red Gold
  • Starbucks
  • Subway
  • Unilever
  • Uno Chicago Grill
  • White Rose

National Salt Reduction Initiative Members

  • Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American College of Epidemiology
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Society of Hypertension
  • Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Association of Black Cardiologists
  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
  • Baltimore City Health Department
  • Boston Public Health Commission
  • California Department of Public Health
  • Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Consumers Union
  • Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
  • Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health
  • District of Columbia Department of Health
  • InterAmerican Heart Foundation
  • International Society of Hypertension in Blacks
  • Joint Policy Committee, Societies of Epidemiology
  • Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
  • Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Michigan Department of Community Health
  • National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials
  • National Hispanic Medical Association
  • National Kidney Foundation
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • New York State Chapter, American College of Cardiology
  • New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
  • New York State Department of Health
  • North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health
  • Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium
  • Oregon Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association
  • Public Health, Seattle and King County
  • Society for the Analysis of African-American Public Health Issues
  • Tennessee Department of Health
  • Washington State Department of Health
  • West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Public Health
  • World Hypertension League