As part of a voluntary public health initiative led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to lower the amount of sodium in popular foods, 21 companies — including Butterball, Heinz, Subway, Starbucks, and Kraft Foods — have cut salt content in certain products by as much as 30 percent.
As CBS News reports, the affected products include a variety of foods including hot dogs, cold cuts, cheese singles, sandwiches, and crackers. Bloomberg lauded Kraft in particular for “reducing sodium in its Kraft Singles American Slices by 18 percent” and Subway for eliminating sodium entirely from two of their popular sandwiches.
Bloomberg and public health advocates welcomed the companies’ decisions, noting that Americans consume an excessive amount of sodium, and that the source of the excess is in pre-packaged foods rather than salt manually added to products by consumers:
“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,” said Bloomberg.
Noting that Americans eat about twice as much salt as they should and citing its link to high blood pressure and resulting diseases, the city set voluntary guidelines in 2010 through the National Salt Reduction Initiative for various restaurant and store-bought foods. Bloomberg said that 80 percent of salt came from prepackaged foods, not people adding salt.
“Consumers can always add salt to food, but they can’t take it out,” NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said at the time.
Bloomberg has established himself as a leader in battling America’s obesity, diabetes, and smoking-related public health epidemics, enforcing strong public smoking bans and limits on soda sizes in his city.
While some critics have labeled his methods as overbearing, some of the evidence vindicates Bloomberg’s tactics, as cities with stronger nutritional regulatory regimes tend to be healthier and less obese — particularly children in such cities. And the companies’ decisions to voluntarily lower salt content is a welcome change from the tendency of Big Food to market heavily processed products, thereby undermining public health.
Curbing obesity rates in the United States would go a long way toward reducing health care costs and improving general wellness among Americans. Other recent efforts aimed at addressing obesity and public health include initiatives to promote healthy school lunches and Obamacare provisions requiring chain restaurants to conspicuously post caloric information on their menus.