NEW YORK Starbucks and Heinz were among 16 U.S. food companies who pledged on Monday to cut salt levels in their products as part of a national campaign started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The pledges are part of Bloomberg's National Salt Reduction Initiative, a coalition of cities and health organizations that aim to reduce salt in restaurant and packaged foods by 25 percent over five years.
Starbucks will cut salt in its breakfast sandwiches, while Heinz will reduce sodium levels in its ketchup and marinades and Boar's Head will cut salt in all manner of cured meats, cold cuts and sausages.
Other companies involved are Au Bon Pain, FreshDirect, Goya, Hain Celestial Group, Kraft, LiDestri, Mars Food US, McCain Foods, Red Gold,Inc., Subway, Unilever, Uno Chicago Grill and White Rose
"By working together over the past two years, we have been able to accomplish something many said was impossible -- setting concrete, achievable goals for salt reduction," Bloomberg said in a statement.
U.S. researchers found recently that cutting salt intake by nearly 10 percent could prevent hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes over several decades and save the United States $32 billion in healthcare costs.
Eating too much salt is a major cause of high blood pressure, which the Institute of Medicine has declared a "neglected disease" that costs the U.S. health system $73 billion a year.
Bloomberg's initiative targets restaurants and packaged food because only 11 percent of sodium in American diets is added by consumers. Nearly 80 percent is added to foods before they are sold, the New York City Health Department reported.
High blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke kill 23,000 New Yorkers and 800,000 Americans each year, the department said. Salt intake has been increasing since the 1970s, with Americans consuming about twice the recommended daily limit.
Bloomberg, in his third term as mayor, has become a crusader for healthy living by banning smoking and trans fat, requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts of their menu items and campaigning against sugary drinks.