The mayor who puts salt on Saltine crackers and allegedly chows down on popcorn so sprinkled with sodium that it hurts his guests is nonetheless pleased with a New York City–led initiative that’s resulted in several companies reducing the sodium contents of their products. Kraft, Unilever, Heinz, Butterball, Goya, Starbucks, and ConAgra are among the manufacturers who are making the dinner table less salty.
New York commenced its unprecedented, so-called “War on Salt” in 2010, citing the additive as the main cause of high blood pressure and a contributor to severe health issues like stroke and heart disease. Many of the manufacturers that cooperated with the initiative, such as the Campbell Soup Company, were already in the process of reducing sodium content of their canned and boxed soups and stews across the board, but everyone from Kraft to Au Bon Pain is getting Hizzoner high-fives today. While local in origin, the mayor’s National Salt Reduction Initiative has now resulted in Subway cutting the salt in some sandwiches by 27 percent, for example, which goes for Des Moines as much as it does for Downtown Brooklyn. “The products they’re making healthier are some of America’s most beloved and iconic foods,” says Bloomberg, who cheekily adds he’s a fan of the fast-food chain’s Italian B.M.T.
A shifting industry standard, of course, means that attention will now be diverted to the health and safety of the ingredients and alternative manufacturing methods that have been adopted by companies to achieve their sodium-reduction goals. To make up for lost salt, manufacturers have a vast arsenal of proprietary techniques at their disposal and some simpler ones, including finer-grain salt to cover more surface area without increasing volume, and salt substitute potassium chloride, which NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says is beneficial because American diets are at the moment low in sodium. Detractors — salt industry advocates — say that replacing dietary iodized salt with potassium chloride could result in developmental issues in children and increased kidney dysfunction.