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Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Subway, Heinz and others reduce salt in food as part of New York-led effort

As part of a New York City-led effort, 21 restaurant chains and food manufacturers have been reducing the amount of sodium in their foods.
As part of a New York City-led effort, 21 restaurant chains and food manufacturers have been reducing the amount of sodium in their foods. Flickr via overthinkingme

Subway, Heinz and Kraft are three of 21 companies that have reached goals to reduce the salt content in their foods, as part of a New York City-led effort to reduce sodium levels in pre-packaged and restaurant items.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Monday that these businesses "met one or more of their voluntary commitments" to help bring down salt levels in items such as ketchup, bread, cold cuts and canned soup.  

Among the successes are Kraft Singles American Slices, the salt in which has been reduced by 18 percent per serving;  Ragu's Old World Style Traditional Tomato Sauce, which has reduced salt by 20 percent per serving; and two Subway sandwiches which have had sodum levels reduced by 27 to 32 percent.

These efforts are part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), a country-wide movement started in 2008 that involves more 90 state and local health authorities and national health organizations. The NSRI’s goal is to reduce salt in manufactured foods by 25 percent over five years.

“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 Linda 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.”

Excessive consumption of salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is often a precursor to heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American gets 3,436 milligrams of sodium per day, more than double the recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams. A large portion of this salt comes from pre-packaged goods, where manufacturers use sodium as a preservation agent or as part of additives that affect the food's texture and color.

While this NSRI may be based out of New York, it's efforts are aimed at improving national health. Recent numbers from the L.A. County Department of Public Health show that South L.A. has a heart disease death rate of about 218 deaths per 100,000 residents – the highest in the county. While this may be attributed to a variety of genetic and lifestyle factors, the ongoing struggle to keep out fast food and attract fresh food is a large contributing factor to everyday health. 

Other food manufacturers and restaurant chains that reacheed their 2012 NSRI goals of salt reductoin include Butterball, Goya Foods, Starbucks, Au Bon Pain and more. 

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