Bloomberg's salt shakeup

No smoking in bars? Check. Trans-fat ban? Check. Fast-food calorie charts? Check.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg added another feather to his public-health cap – getting 16 food companies to commit to his voluntary plan to reduce salt in food.

By 2014, we’ll see lower sodium levels at several chain restaurants and in packaged foods, including Boar’s Head, Goya, Kraft and Heinz.

“I love salt in my food, I put salt in my popcorn,” the mayor joked yesterday.

But only 20 percent of Americans’ salt intake comes from the stuff we sprinkle on popcorn. The rest can be found in restaurant meals and processed foods.

“They are why Americans get nearly twice the daily recommended amount of salt," Bloomberg said.

The agreement was well-received, but raised concerns about governmental overreach and worries that certain foods might never taste the same.

The goal of the National Salt Reduction Initiative is to reduce U.S. salt intake by 20 percent by 2014. Even before the announcement, Starbucks had started slashing salt. It’s breakfast sandwiches will be modified next.

FreshDirect has also joined the low-salt brigade. “We’re making a commitment on our own behalf in terms of the food we manufacture,” said Jim Moore, svp of FreshDirect.  “We’re already at the required levels in 16 out of 18 of the categories of food we manufacture. We’re going to get the last two categories — sauces and dips and heat-and-eat meals — compliant by 2012. This is more of a confirmation of our efforts rather than a big change.

“It just requires us to change the flavor profile a little bit,” he said. For us, shelf life is not as much of an issue, because this is food we’re manufacturing ourselves, and we have a short supply chain.”

Joy Bauer, “Today” show nutrition expert, commended the initiative.

“I really commend him and all of these companies because it’s voluntary,“ she said. "Frankly it’s the only way we’re going to reduce sodium intake, which causes high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

“It may shock people at first, but we’ll get used to it,” she said.

But not all New Yorkers embraced the news. Top restaurants insisted they’d be the judge on salt.
 

But not all New Yorkers embraced the news. Top restaurants insisted they’d be the judge on salt.

“When it comes to city restaurants, I am pretty opposed to salt limits,” said Michael Ferraro, chef at SoHo’s Delicatessen. “I’m not convinced about locking in the amounts of sodium any restaurant can use.”

And he’s worried about taste.

“The product that stuck out to me was Heinz’s ketchup,” Ferraro said. “If ketchup is changed across the board, it won’t taste the same. I think it’s a better idea to offer a low sodium option.”

But the buzz among chain-restaurants customers was mixed.

“If the taste changes I’ll probably be bothered by it,” said Gilad Block, 38, of Westchester, who was eating at Gray’s Papaya near Times Square.

At a Subway down the block, Melissa Shanty, 24, a self-described “health nut” said she didn’t like the precedent. “I see it as a whole lot of government interference.”

Taneish Hamilton and Joe Gerace contributed to this story.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday