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Stealth and Other Salt Reduction Strategies

People like salt. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this week's poster boy for salt reduction, admits that he loves the stuff. But while Bloomberg is grabbing headlines with his new voluntary salt reduction guidelines, many food companies have been taking a more subtle, behind-the-scenes approach.

It's been demonstrated repeatedly that a "low-sodium" label can kill a product. But reduce the salt gradually, the companies figure, and people won't notice. Kellogg apparently spent twenty years slowly decreasing the sodium content of its All-Bran cereal, for a total cut of 75 percent.

Of course, Bloomberg's strategy relies on pretty much the same principle -- reduce salt slowly and across the board, and people's taste buds will adjust accordingly. As it is, Americans consume more than double the amount of sodium we should. Bloomberg has proposed that restaurants and packaged food makers reduce salt by 25 percent over five years.

Responses to Bloomberg's plan have been predictable -- the American Heart Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and nutritionist Marion Nestle all love the idea, while the Salt Institute thinks it's unnecessary and absurd.

The food industry's response has been mixed and cautious. A Campbell Soup Co. spokeswoman called Bloomberg's plan "laudable but very aggressive," while ConAgra said it would not alter its current plan to cut sodium 20 percent by 2015.

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