More companies are due to join the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI) and data analyzing its efficacy will be released next year, according to an ADA conference presentation in Boston.
The NSRI is a partnership of cities, companies and national health organizations led by New York City health officials to promote a voluntary program of salt reduction in packaged and restaurant foods. The campaign, based on a British voluntary salt reduction initiative that has claimed some success in reducing salt consumption, aims to curb the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 percent over the next five years.
“What we feel distinguishes it is the evaluation system we have set up that really holds manufacturers to account,” said director of nutrition policy at the New York City department of health and mental hygiene Christine Johnson.
Speaking at the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo last week, she said that companies’ reduction of sodium in their products is next due to be assessed in January. Meanwhile, New York City urine samples are currently being analyzed for sodium content.
“Although monitoring is only happening in New York, we think it will shed light on sodium consumption nationally. We are analyzing data now and will probably release it next winter,” she said.
Johnson said that the NSRI considered each food category separately, while bearing the 25 percent reduction goal across all food in mind. Then the project looked at what had been possible in the UK, and examined documented technical challenges.
“We want to see people going to the store buying the same items but sodium to have been reduced so that they are consuming less,” she said.
In April, the NSRI announced 16 commitments from major food manufacturers. Johnson said the project plans to make another announcement about companies signing up to the initiative later this fall.
The NSRI, if successful in cutting a quarter of the salt from packaged and restaurant foods, has claimed that it could cut the nation’s salt intake by 20 percent and prevent up to 800,000 premature deaths/year nationwide and 23,000 deaths in New York City alone. The sodium in salt is thought to be a contributor to high blood pressure, which in turn has been linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke, the nation’s leading causes of preventable death.
Although Americans consume nearly twice the recommended limit of salt each day, very little of the sodium in the national diet comes from saltshakers; an estimated 70 to 80 percent is added to foods before purchase.