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NYC Leads Nationwide Effort To Cut Salt In Restaurants And Packaged Foods

Posted On: 1/15/2010

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NEW YORK CITY -- The National Salt Reduction Initiative, a New York City-led partnership of cities, states and national health organizations, has unveiled its proposed targets to guide a voluntary reduction of salt levels in packaged and restaurant foods.

Through a year of technical consultation with food industry leaders, the National Salt Reduction Initiative has developed specific targets to help companies reduce the salt levels in 61 categories of packaged food and 25 classes of restaurant food.

The New York City Health Department will solicit additional comments on the targets this month, and the initiative will adopt final targets this spring. The goal of the initiative is to cut the salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over five years -- an achievement officials say would reduce the nation's salt intake by 20% and perhaps preventing thousands of premature deaths.

"Consumers can always add salt to food, but they can't take it out," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. "At current levels, the salt in our diets poses health risks for people with normal blood pressure, and it's even riskier for the 1.5 million New Yorkers with high blood pressure. If we can reduce the sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods, we will give consumers more choice about the amount of salt they eat, and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke in the process."

In the United Kingdom, a similar collaboration between the food industry and government has already resulted in salt reductions of 40% or more in some food products, with the overall goal of reducing the salt in processed and restaurant foods by one-third by 2010. Canada is also actively addressing the issue, and Australia, Finland, Ireland and New Zealand have all launched large-scale countrywide initiatives to help reduce the salt in their foods.