Health Concerns

City’s War on Salt: Who’s for It, and Who’s Against

Photo: iStockPhoto, Creative Commons

We knew it was coming, but today the Health Department announced the details of its National Salt Reduction Initiative. The program will ask food producers to voluntarily cut their sodium output 20 to 25 percent by 2014. Some big-name companies have signed on (PepsiCo plans to reduce the salt in Lay’s potato chips 25 percent during the next 18 months), but as you can imagine, not everyone is onboard. We combed the papers and pulled some quotes to find out where everyone stands. Feel free to chime in!

Definitely For
• “We think it’s a very realistic set of criteria that our suppliers can adhere to.” —A&P; food stores representative

• “We view these as achievable goals.” —Subway rep

• “It’s a very important initiative, and one that should get the food and restaurant industries working to reduce the amount of salt they put in foods.” —Center for Science and Public Interest rep

• “Kraft Foods is supportive of the overall goal of New York City’s sodium reduction initiative.” —Kraft rep

On the Fence?
• “We don’t have plans to join other organizations’ pledges.” —ConAgra rep (ConAgra is already reducing salt levels.)

• “We can do it— we just might not be able to do it within certain deadlines … Companies want to reduce slowly so you can bring consumers to the [new] taste.” —The Snack Food Association rep

• “I’m always worried about unintended consequences.” —Albert Einstein College of Medicine professor

• “We very much believe we share a common goal with New York City … The recommendations proposed are laudable but very aggressive.” —Campbell Soup rep (Campbell is already reducing salt levels.)

• “There is some hesitancy to commit to these goals … We don’t want a patchwork of state mandates across the country.” —National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C. rep

• “You’re talking about some major, major changing and reformulating. How do you do this? How do you reduce the sodium from all of those products? All I know is that this is going to put some major concern and pressure on quick-service restaurants.” —New York State Restaurant Association rep

• “Voluntary doesn’t work … I do believe it will be regulated.” —Dennis Riese, chief executive of the Riese Organization (New York franchisers of T.G.I. Friday’s, Pizza Hut, etc.)

• “This program is a terrific start in generating momentum to reduce sodium levels … I think the FDA will get involved sometime later this year. These proposed targets are the first shot across the bow of the restaurant industry.” —Center for Science in the Public Interest rep

Definitely Against
• “There’s a certain arrogance when the New York City Health Department is setting policy for the rest of the country” and “The call for salt reduction is based on a false notion that there is sufficient evidence to connect salt consumption with cardiovascular disease.” —National Salt Institute rep

• “They want to do an experiment on a whole population without a good control … That’s not science.” —American Journal of Hypertension rep

• “Paternalistic … First it was trans fats, then it was mandatory labeling. The City’s Board of Health knows best.” —Center for Consumer Freedom rep

Citing Hazard, New York Says Hold the Salt [NYT]
Food-nanny Mike declares war on salt in NYers diets [NYP]
New city plan pushes for 25% reduction of salt in nearly all food products [NYDN]
Cutting Salt, Improving Health [NYC]
New York City leads drive to cut salt intake [Reuters]
Health groups seek to cut US salt intake
City Targets Salty Diets [Crain’s]
NYC debuts sodium reduction plan [NRN]

City’s War on Salt: Who’s for It, and Who’s Against