NEW YORK — The National Salt Reduction Initiative is working with food manufacturers and the restaurant industry to reduce Americans' salt intake by 20% over five years.
Coordinated by the New York City Health Department, the NSRI is a new partnership that includes 18 national health organizations and 30 cities, states and related entities.
On April 26, the NSRI announced voluntary guidelines for salt reduction for 62 categories of packaged food and 25 categories of restaurant food. The guidelines include two- and four-year targets for average salt levels in each category of food.
The guidelines vary depending on product and category. For ready-to-eat-cereal, for instance, the 2012 target is 490 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of food; by 2014, 370 milligrams per 100 grams of food.
The program is modeled after a successful program in the United Kingdom, where some products achieved reductions of 40% or more and the country's daily salt intake dropped 9% in eight years — from 9.5 grams in 2000/2001 to 8.6 grams in 2008.
To date, 16 food manufacturers and restaurant chains publicly embraced the NSRI guidelines. They are:
- Au Bon Pain
- Boar's Head Provisions Co.
- Goya Foods
- Hain Celestial
- Kraft Foods
- LiDestri Foods
- Mars Food U.S.
- McCain Foods
- Red Gold
- Starbucks Coffee Co.
- White Rose
- Uno Chicago Grill
The NSRI will assess industry's progress in 2012 and again in 2014. To do so, it has created a database to track nutritional information of food products. This will enable the NSRI to monitor salt content by food category and by food manufacturer or restaurant. Companies can also report baseline information and provide updates.
The NSRI Packaged Food Database includes nutrition and sales data for all 62 packaged food categories. The database links nutrition data to sales data by UPC code, which allows the NSRI to calculate the sales-weighted average sodium for each food category and assess the potential for sodium reduction.
The NSRI Restaurant Food Database includes nutrition information and available market share data for all 25 restaurant food categories.