Nestlé USA has announced its intention to back a White House initiative to set voluntary sodium targets for major food companies. This announcement distinguishes Nestlé from many other food companies reticent about the targets and the effect that low sodium foods might have on their sales.
While the initiative has not yet passed into law, Nestlé has already set its own objective of a 10 percent sodium reduction over the next three years in products that do not already meet the Nestlé Nutritional Foundation criteria. This constitutes about 57 percent of its product line, including foods from Stouffer's and Maggi brands.
The company hopes to foster a line of low sodium foods that would help people consume no more than 2 grams of sodium per day, all without sacrificing flavor.
“We have built technical solutions to enable sodium reduction without compromising on taste or texture to retain consumer preference,” reads Nestlé’s news release.
Other companies do not believe that this will be so easy. Industry giants including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, of which Nestlé is a member company, have lobbied against imposing this voluntary target until the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine have completed studies on the initiative. Such studies would likely take 18 months and not be completed until President Obama has left office.
Nestlé first began reducing sodium in its products in 2005, with an 8 percent reduction achieved by 2015. It hopes to meet its full sodium objectives by 2025. This gradual approach is key for ensuring that customers can grow accustomed to the change in flavor, according to the company's news release.
Nestlé hopes that other food manufacturers will join in voluntarily reducing sodium content.
“We encourage our industry colleagues, along with others in both the private and public sector, to join forces and combine our varied expertise to help people move toward healthier eating patterns, including a diet lower in sodium,” said Paul Grimwood, CEO of Nestlé USA.
Nestlé’s announcement follows a Washington conference on salt consumption organized by the Pan-American Health Organization.
The voluntary sodium reduction initiative is backed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is part of a larger White House effort to fight against chronic disease including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 g of salt per day to prevent these and other health problems.
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Spilled salt image via Shutterstock