Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday that the city is successfully pushing private companies to lower the salt content in their food, but the effort so far is voluntary. He also said there are no plans to regulate salt consumption, the way the city is doing with sugary drinks. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Some of the biggest names in the food industry are on board: Heinz, Kraft Foods, Subway, and Starbucks. All are cutting sodium in their own products as part of the city-led push to reduce sodium intake across the country by 20 percent by 2014.
Food executives joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall on Monday to announce that almost all of the companies that signed on to a salt-reduction challenge in 2010 met their goals in 2012.
"Down the road, we are just going to have to eat healthier otherwise we are going to go bankrupt with our healthcare costs," Bloomberg said.
Cutting salt lowers people's blood pressure, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Kraft, for instance, reduced the level of sodium in Kraft Singles American cheese slices by 18 percent. Ragu Old World-Style traditional tomato sauce now has 20 percent less sodium in each serving. Subway's Italian B.M.T. sandwich has 27 percent less sodium as well.
The changes may not necessarily be obvious to consumers. Some of the sodium is being replaced with potassium chloride, but the companies are trying to avoid any changes in flavor.
"We always work to keep that taste and quality of the product the same," said Russ Moroz, a vice president of Kraft Foods.
Food manufacturers say sodium is not only present in food because of the taste, but to also help with texture and keeping food fresh.
City officials say nearly 80 percent of salt in the American diet comes from packaged foods or from foods purchased in restaurants. But so far the effort to curb sodium levels has been voluntary.
"We don't have any plans to ban salt in restaurants but we are encouraging restaurants to lower the sodium levels in food," said city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
New Yorkers may want to take this victory lap with a grain a salt, though. Farley said he does not know how much of an impact these changes are having on the amount of sodium Americans are consuming.