Health Department Announces New Company Commitments to the National Salt Reduction Initiative

Six major food companies join nationwide initiative to reduce sodium in their products; Daytime TV’s The Doctors promotes NYC-led effort as it embarks on its own ‘Halt the Salt’ campaign

November 23, 2010 – Hostess, Butterball, Snyder’s of Hanover, Premio, Furmano’s and Delhaize America are the latest major food companies to sign on to the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), the Health Department announced today. These companies join 16 of the nation’s leading food makers in a nationwide effort to cut the salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over five years – an achievement that would reduce the nation’s salt intake by 20% and prevent tens of thousands of deaths each year due to conditions caused by high blood pressure. The addition of these companies demonstrates their dedication to leading the food industry toward a healthier food supply.

The initiative has developed specific targets to guide company salt reductions across 62 categories of packaged food and 25 categories of restaurant food. The food companies committing to targets today will reduce sodium in 29 of the NSRI packaged food categories. Heinz is expanding its earlier commitment to include some frozen entrees, in addition to ketchup and tomato sauce.

  • Butterball is a popular brand-name manufacturer of turkey, poultry, and deli meats, as well as specialty products. The company commits to meeting the NSRI sodium-reduction targets in deli meat and hot dogs.
  • Delhaize America is a supermarket group whose 1,600 stores include Food Lion and Hannaford. The company will reduce sodium levels in the products it manufactures across 22 packaged-food categories, including frozen pizza, cereal and butter.
  • Furmano’s, a supplier of foods to consumers and restaurants, will cut salt across its varieties of canned beans, baked beans and tomatoes.
  • Heinz, which made an initial commitment for its ketchup brand and Classico tomato sauce, is increasing its commitment to include frozen pizza and entrees.
  • Hostess, one of the largest wholesale bakeries in the country, produces bread, snack cakes and donuts under many brand names, including Wonder and Nature’s Pride. The company commits to reducing salt across its entire line of bread products.
  • Family-owned Premio is the maker of 20 different sausage products. It commits to decreasing salt in its uncooked sausages.
  • Snyder’s of Hanover, the nation’s largest pretzel maker, also produces potato chips, tortilla chips and a brand of low-fat snack foods. The manufacturer already meets the NSRI target for pretzels and now commits to cutting the salt in its unflavored chips.

These companies join Au Bon Pain, Boar’s Head, FreshDirect, Goya, Hain Celestial, Kraft, LiDestri, Mars Food, McCain Foods, Red Gold, Starbucks, Subway, Unilever, Uno Chicago Grill and White Rose, all of which are already committed to NSRI targets.

The latest company announcements come as The Doctors, an Emmy Award-winning syndicated series, launches an independent campaign – “Halt the Salt” – to raise awareness of the excessive sodium in our diets. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dr. Sonia Angell, Director of the Health Department’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control program, will appear on The Doctors Wednesday morning (check local listings) to discuss the NYC-led National Salt Reduction Initiative.

“High sodium diets can cause high blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease and other debilitating illnesses,” said Dr. Travis Stork, host of The Doctors and a faculty physician at Vanderbilt Medical Center. “We’re concerned about sodium sneaking into our diets, mostly from the pre-packaged foods we buy in stores and meals we consume in restaurants. We hope our Halt the Salt initiative will raise viewers’ awareness of this hidden danger. This is our call to action to all the moms out there who want to shop for better products for their families. By taking the Halt the Salt pledge, our viewers can make their voices heard, sending a strong message to food manufacturers.”

The National Salt Reduction Initiative now includes 32 local and state health departments and 25 other partners. New partners since April include the Hawaii State Department of Health, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, Kaiser Permanente, the Minnesota Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, the New Mexico Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Health, the North Dakota Department of Health, and the Texas Medical Association.

“Reducing salt intake has been a public health priority for decades,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “The national initiative that New York City spearheaded has begun the work to achieve this goal, and we’re pleased to see the partnership expand and grow. Thanks to these food manufacturers and the NSRI’s 50-plus partners, the initiative truly has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year that otherwise would be lost to cardiovascular disease.”

Americans consume roughly twice the recommended limit of salt each day, causing widespread high blood pressure and placing millions at risk of heart attack and stroke. Only 11% of the sodium in our diets comes from our own saltshakers; nearly 80% is added to foods before they are sold. The sodium in salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure, which in turn causes heart attack and stroke, the nation’s leading causes of preventable death. The Health Department recently unveiled a new public-awareness campaign, which includes posters in the subway system and a multilingual Health Bulletin, to educate consumers about these risks, urging them to compare labels and choose foods with less sodium.

“Butterball places a high priority on offering a wide variety of delicious turkey products for every day occasions and celebrations, including options for consumers who are seeking lower sodium products,” said Kari Lindell, director of retail marketing for Butterball. “We fully support the vision of the National Salt Reduction Initiative. We’re actively working to reduce the sodium in our products. The majority already meet the NSRI 2014 guidelines, and we’re committed to making further reductions in our remaining products. We look forward to continuing to offer better-for-you turkey products for consumers, whether they are cooking bacon for breakfast or enjoying a whole turkey for Thanksgiving.”

“Hostess Brands is proud to partner with the National Salt Reduction Initiative in our continued efforts to reduce sodium levels in our bread portfolio and to meet the guidelines set forth by the NSRI by 2012,” said Stephany Verstraete, Vice President of Bread Marketing. “In addition to making changes to our existing products, new Hostess Brands breads will be formulated with reduced sodium levels.”

“Premio Foods understands full well the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and life style,” said Marc Cinque, President and CEO of Premio Foods. “It recognizes that as a food manufacturer, it has a significant responsibility to provide the consumer with products that are not only of the highest quality and taste, but that also foster good health. Premio is committed in every regard to meeting NSRI standards while maintaining its long-standing tradition of providing a great tasting product.”

“We are proud to join with the National Salt Reduction Initiative in its effort to improve cardiovascular health by lowering the amount of salt Americans consume,” said Carl Lee, President and CEO of Snyder's of Hanover. “As the #1 national brand of pretzels, Snyder’s has always been a better-for-you salted snack option with significantly lower sodium levels than any other leading brand of pretzels – in fact up to 40% to 65% less sodium. We look forward to continuing to provide great tasting, premium quality snacks while working with the NSRI toward reducing sodium across our full line of snacks.”

When a company signs on to the initiative, it pledges that its overall salt level in a given category, taking sales into account, will meet the relevant target, even if some individual products in that category do not. A company selling three equally popular lines of crackers, for example, could keep one of them salty as long as its overall cracker sales met the target. If manufacturers and restaurants work together to reduce average salt content, consumers will enjoy the health benefits without a noticeable difference in taste.

The National Salt Reduction Initiative received extensive support from philanthropists and donors, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The evaluation of population salt intake was made possible by funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New York State Health Foundation, the National Association of County & City Health Officials and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This funding is administered by the Fund for Public Health in New York, a private non-profit organization that supports innovative initiatives of the New York City Health Department.

MEDIA CONTACT: (212) 788-5290
Susan Craig/Zoe Tobin:

National Salt Reduction Initiative Partners

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
American College of Cardiology
American College of Epidemiology
American Dietetic Association
American Heart Association
American Medical Association
American Public Health Association
American Society of Hypertension
Arizona Department of Health Services
Association of Black Cardiologists
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Baltimore City Health Department
Boston Public Health Commission
California Department of Public Health
Chicago Department of Public Health
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Consumers Union
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health
District of Columbia Department of Health
Hawaii State Department of Health
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program
InterAmerican Heart Foundation
International Society of Hypertension in Blacks
Joint Policy Committee, Societies of Epidemiology
Kaiser Permanente
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Michigan Department of Community Health
Minnesota Department of Health
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Hispanic Medical Association
National Kidney Foundation
New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services
New Mexico Department of Health
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
New York State Chapter, American College of Cardiology
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
New York State Department of Health
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health
North Dakota Department of Health
Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium
Ohio Department of Health
Oregon Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association
Public Health, Seattle and King County
Society for the Analysis of African-American Public Health Issues
Tennessee Department of Health
Texas Medical Association
Washington State Department of Health
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Public Health
World Hypertension League