One week after the federal Institute of Medicine issued a report advocating mandatory limits for sodium content in processed food and restaurant meals, 16 food processors announced plans to make such reductions voluntarily. It was welcome news and one can only hope the start of a trend that will spread throughout the industry.
Americans have way too much salt in their diet, and in most cases it’s not even their own doing. Moreover, they don’t even know it — until their doctor whistles them for high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and cardiovascular disease. That’s because food processors and restaurant chefs think it’s the only way consumers will like their food, and when they put the salt in, it’s not always detectable.
While it’s probably true, to some extent, that Americans have gotten used to excessive salt in their food and would protest if it was eliminated all at once, gradual reductions probably wouldn’t even be noticed. That’s the hope of companies like Heinz, which has agreed to remove 15 percent of the sodium from its ketchup starting May 1, for example.
It’s certainly worth a try, because excessive sodium accounts for as many as 150,000 deaths per year in this country and costs as much as $24 billion in health care.