Another day, another Bloomberg health initiative: This time it's salt's turn in the mayor's crosshairs. Today the city is launching a broad new effort to reduce the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 percent over the next five years. Unlike Bloomberg's controversial calorie count law, the plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation. (It's hoped that companies will cut salt so gradually that consumers won't even notice.) Food Emporium and Subway have already pledged their allegiance to the anti-salt crusade, but naturally the Salt Institute (yes, there is such a thing) is fuming.
"There's a certain arrogance when the New York City Health Department is setting policy for the rest of the country," Salt Institute spokeswoman Lisa Roman tells the Post. "These are decisions that should be made personally." And Dr. Michael Alderman, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, thinks the initiative amounts to an uncontrolled experiment with the public’s health, telling the Times, "I’m always worried about unintended consequences." But Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner, says the bottom line is that "we all consume way too much salt, and most of the salt we consume is in the food when we buy it."
The city's National Salt Reduction Initiative is being conducted in partnership with other cities because major food companies can't alter their products for just the New York market. A&P, the supermarket chain that operates in NYC as Food Emporium, is expected to cut the salt in hundreds of store brand products it sells under labels like America’s Choice and Smart Price. And Subway will commit to the city’s salt guidelines at its nearly 23,000 stores across the country. Subway's six-inch spicy Italian sub currently has a salt content that is far above the city’s goals.
According to the Health Department, only 11% of the sodium in Americans’ diets comes from their 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.