Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley today announced 21 companies met one or more of their voluntary commitments to reduce sodium content in pre-packaged or restaurant foods.
The sodium reduction targets were by the National Salt Reduction Initiative – a partnership announced by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008, which is the first-ever nationwide partnership to reduce sodium in the U.S. food supply. These achievements demonstrate that food companies can make important, measureable improvements to the healthfulness of the foods that will appear on shelves across the United States. Most salt in the diet of Americans – nearly 80 percent – 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 percent 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. Cutting salt intake lowers blood pressure, a major preventable risk factor for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. 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. The Mayor made the announcement at City Hall where he was joined by by Russ Moroz, Kraft Foods Vice-President of Research, Development and Quality; Douglas Balentine, Unilever Director of Nutrition and Health; Vincent Unanue, Goya Foods Category Manager; Charles Bell, Consumers Union Programs Director; Laura Wilson, Mondel?z International Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs/Nutrition; Kevin Kane, Subway Public Relations Manager; John Leeman, Fresh Direct Chief Marketing Officer; and Jocelyn Paal, LiDestri Foods/Francesco Rinaldi Marketing Manager.
"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," said Mayor Bloomberg. "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."
"For those who are watching their sodium intake, the hidden salt in packaged foods – particularly in items that don't even taste salty – can be a real challenge," said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. "This initiative, and industries' active and willing participation, can give consumers reassurance that some companies are taking active steps to remove excess sodium from their products."
"I congratulate these companies for taking steps to make it easier for their customers to eat products with healthier levels of sodium," said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. "We set a high bar in New York City and I'm pleased to recognize these food company leaders that met or exceeded the NSRI targets."
"Many Americans are interested in reducing their sodium intake, so we've been working to lower sodium levels in our products for several years," said Russ Moroz, Kraft’s Vice President of Research, Development & Quality. "In fact, we recently announced the completion of our own three-year commitment to reduce sodium across our portfolio by an average of 10 percent."
"Unilever agreed to participate in the National Salt Reduction Initiative as part of Unilever’s global salt reduction initiatives to reduce sodium across our foods and refreshment portfolio that started in 2004," said Douglas Balentine, Director of Nutrition and Health at Unilever.
"We are very proud of the significant reductions we’ve made to the sodium levels of our menu offerings, which we have been able to do without sacrificing flavor or quality," said Lanette Kovachi, Senior Dietitian for the SUBWAY® brand. "Last year, as a result of meeting a set of rigorous criteria including our sodium reduction efforts, the SUBWAY® restaurant chain became the first restaurant with meals to earn the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Meal Certification. We have made a commitment to reduce sodium in all of our products and we expect to announce even more sodium reductions later this year. We are particularly pleased with our association with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the National Salt Reduction Initiative, which we view as a valuable partner as we pursue our goals in this area."
"As a participant in the National Salt Reduction Initiative, Heinz reduced sodium across our U.S. Ketchup base product line by 15 percent to exceed the 2012 NSRI targets," said Idamarie Laquatra, PhD, RD, Director of Global Nutrition, H.J. Heinz Company. "Our complete line of Classico red pasta sauces met the 2012 NSRI targets before the initiative was even launched, and Heinz has voluntarily reduced sodium in other brands in recent years. Reflecting our dedication to health and wellness, Heinz remains committed to reducing sodium across our portfolio as we look to meet or exceed the 2014 NSRI targets where feasible, while offering products that meet consumer expectations for quality and taste, as well as high food safety standards."
"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."
The 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 percent over five years through voluntary corporate commitments – an achievement that would reduce the nation’s sodium intake by 20 percent.
Some of the nation's food industry leaders have made great strides to cut sodium in their products. For example, sodium in Nabisco's Teddy Grahams Honey flavor graham snacks made by Mondel?z International, the global snacking company formed following the spin-off of Kraft Foods Inc., was reduced 33 percent from 150 mg to 100 mg per serving. The sodium in Kraft Singles American Slices has been reduced by 18 percent per serving. Unilever, the company that makes Ragu pasta sauce, announced that it reduced the sodium in its Ragu Old World Style Traditional Tomato Sauce by 20 percent per serving.
As part of its efforts to lower sodium, restaurant chain Subway reduced sodium in two of the restaurant's most popular sandwiches: the sodium in the Subway Club has been reduced by 32 percent per serving and the Italian B.M.T. sandwich now contains 27 percent less sodium.
The food manufacturers that met 2012 NSRI sodium targets are: Butterball, Furmano Foods, Goya Foods, Heinz, Ken's Foods, Kraft Foods, LiDestri Foods/Francesco Rinaldi, Mars Foods US, McCain Foods, Mondel?z 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 Corporation.
The NSRI has received extensive support from philanthropists and donors, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New York State Health Foundation, the National Association of County & City Health Officials. This funding is administered by the Fund for Public Health in New York, a private non-profit organization that supports innovative initiatives of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Companies interested in joining this initiative and committing to 2014 targets can find more information at nyc.gov.