New York's Next Crusade: Salt

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The New York City Health Department is at it again. First trans-fat, then calories, then sodas. Now, it's going after salt in packaged foods and restaurant meals. It is asking for a 25% reduction in the next five years. How come? Because nearly 80% of salt in American diets is already in packaged and restaurant foods and if you eat them at all you have no choice about the amount of salt you are getting.

The Health Department is sending a clear message: reducing the salt content of packaged and restaurant foods will help New Yorkers stay healthy.

The initiative is voluntary. But if everyone complied, we would all get used to a less salty taste and the current high salt levels would taste too salty.

This is actually a modest proposal. We still have a long way to go. The proposed standard for marketing foods to children, for example, is 480 mg sodium (more than a gram of salt) per serving. A mere half-cup of Campbell's low sodium soups contains that much. Campbell says it's up to you to get the company to do better. According to the account in the New York Times, a Campbell official said: "We will continue to reduce sodium as long as there's consumer acceptance in the marketplace."

So give companies plenty of reason to cut the salt!

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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