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Sea salt helps Campbell tout "good food' soup

Executives at the Campbell Soup Co. have heard the same thing almost since Andy Warhol was making art out of their cans in the 1960s: Lower the sodium in soup without sacrificing taste and people will eat even more of it.

Now, after years of gradually reducing the sodium in its soups, the Camden, N.J., company says it has made a breakthrough: natural, low-sodium sea salt. It will be used in about 30 soups - new and reformulated recipes - scheduled to be on supermarket shelves in August.

Regular table salt is 99.7 percent sodium chloride. The federal Food and Drug Administration says adults should eat no more than 2,300 milligrams a day - or just less than a teaspoon. The sea salt in the new soups has 40 percent less sodium than the regular stuff, said George Dowdie, Campbell's vice president for research and development.

The salt change will give the company room to tout other health benefits of its soups, like it did back in the 1980s with its "Soup is good food" ads. The company agreed to halt that campaign after the government complained in 1989 that it was misleading because of the high sodium levels.

When time is up, so it your Vioxx argument

The wheels of justice will spin a little faster at the next Vioxx trial. A pair of chess clocks will see to that.

Determined to keep it short, lawyers for Merck & Co. and two men suing the painkiller's manufacturer have agreed to time limits on testimony and will use tabletop clocks - activated manually, each time one side or the other puts a witness on the stand - to keep track.

When the trial begins March 6, lawyers for plaintiffs Thomas Cona and John McDarby will have 40 hours to present their cases, not including opening statements and closing arguments. Lawyers for Merck will get 35.

Other chatter

COACH TO OFFER KNITWEAR COLLECTION: Coach Inc., the largest U.S. seller of luxury-leather goods, will unveil its first women's knitwear collection in time for the holidays. The new line will include at least six styles and feature cashmere and wool knit sweaters with fur and leather trim. Items will sell for $300 to $1,500.

WORLD BANK STORE TO OPEN: The World Bank is planning to open a store this spring that will sell crafts from developing countries to help promote socially responsible trade. The store, Pangea Artisan Market and Cafe, is to be in the downtown Washington headquarters of International Finance Corp., the branch of the World Bank that is overseeing the project. It will sell a range of handmade merchandise such as banana-leaf handbags from Indonesia and silk pillowcases from Cambodia.

MORE THAN 400-MILLIOON CHINESE HAVE MOBILE PHONES: China's mobile phone market, the world's largest, has passed 400 million users, the government said Thursday. The number of subscribers on the country's mainland rose 5.4-million in January to 398-million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Ministry of Information Industry.

Information from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.

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