Mayor Bloomberg pushes major food companies to reduce sodium

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Sugary drinks, Styrofoam and now salt all mark pivotal points in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent push for a healthier, greener New York City. In the final few months of his term, Bloomberg has been making efforts to push those key pieces of legislation through. Most recently, on Feb. 11 the mayor announced the success of an initiative to reduce sodium in prepackaged and restaurant food.

Twenty-one companies — including Heinz, Kraft Foods and Subway — proudly accomplished their goals in reducing their products’ sodium content last week.

“We have reduced sodium by 15 percent across the board in our core sandwiches,” confirmed Alison Goldberg, a Subway representative.

The National Salt Reduction Initiative began in New York in 2008 to address the risk of high blood pressure that results from diets with too much sodium. Launched by the city’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley in partnership with 90 health authorities nationwide, the initiative calls on food manufacturers and the restaurant industry to reduce salt in their menus.

The move was the first nationwide partnership to reduce sodium content in the country’s food supply.

Mayor Bloomberg commends the participating companies.

“Prior to our National Salt Reduction Initiative, there was no comprehensive approach to lowering sodium in foods,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a Feb. 11 press release. “[Companies have] demonstrated their commitment to working with public health authorities toward a shared goal [and] helping their customers lead longer, healthier lives,” Bloomberg said in a press release.

Participation by the 21 companies is completely voluntary.

“We shared Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of lowering sodium intake,” a Kraft Foods representative said. “This is something that we have been working on for years now.”

Eighty percent of salt intake comes from prepackaged or restaurant foods, and this initiative is a step towards reducing Americans’ sodium consumption on a large scale. The salt contained in food not prepared personally can create problems for those Americans attempting to monitor or control sodium intake. Such a reduction not only lowers blood pressure, but it also improves overall organ health.

“The hidden salt in packaged foods — particularly in items that don’t even taste salty — can be a real challenge,” Deputy Mayor Gibbs said in a press release Feb. 11.

In addition to the National Salt Reduction Initiative, Bloomberg has other health-concerned projects, including the controversial soda ban hoping to combat obesity.

Though these measures have positive intentions, the initiatives have been met with the same resistance as earlier anti-smoking campaigns.

The National Salt Reduction Initiative has a goal to reduce salt in processed foods by 25 percent over the next five years through continued voluntary efforts by corporations.

Haley Steinberg is a contributing writer. Email her at cstate@nyunews.com.

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