Salt has been slipping out of dozens of familiar foods in brand-name America, from Butterball turkeys to Uncle Ben's flavored rice dishes to Goya canned beans.
Twenty-one companies have met targets so far in a voluntary, New York City-led effort to get food manufacturers and restaurateurs to lighten up on salt to improve Americans' heart health, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.
The aim of getting more salt out of the national diet is a challenge because it focuses on an ingredient that plays a role in the taste, preservation and even texture of food.
Salt, or sodium chloride, increases the risk of high blood pressure, a cause of heart disease and stroke. Dietary guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, equal to about a teaspoon of salt; the American Heart Association suggests 1,500 milligrams or less. But average sodium consumption in the United States is about 3,300 milligrams day, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.
Officials said the first step was a meaningful one. "The products they're making healthier are some of America's most beloved and iconic foods," noted Bloomberg, a fan of Subway's meaty Italian BMT sandwiches, which are now 27 percent less salty.
Kraft Foods Inc. squeezed salt out of products ranging from steak sauce to bacon partly by substituting potassium chloride.
ConAgra, which makes Chef Boyardee and Orville Redenbacher products, is following its own 2009 commitment to shave the amount of sodium in its foods by 20 percent by 2015.
PepsiCo Inc., which makes Frito-Lay products, announced in 2010 that it will cut sodium in key brands by one-fourth in five years.