* To cut sodium levels in food products by about 10 pct
* Plan to take effect over next 2 years (Adds background on Obama efforts)
NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) - Kraft Foods KFT.N, the maker of Oreo cookies and Velveeta cheese, plans to cut sodium levels in its North American products by about 10 percent over the next two years, making it the latest food maker trying to address health concerns as pressure mounts from government.
The largest North American food maker said on Wednesday that its plans would eliminate more than 10 million pounds -- or more than 750 million teaspoons -- of salt from some of North America’s most popular foods.
The news came a day after the world’s No. 2 soft-drink maker, PepsiCo (PEP.N), said it would to stop sales of full-sugar soft drinks to primary and secondary schools on a global scale by 2012.
Lawmakers in more than a dozen U.S. states are campaigning to tax sugary beverages to cover obesity-related health costs. [ID:nN15206232]
Earlier this week, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama -- who is leading a major administration initiative on child obesity -- urged food makers to work faster to re-formulate or re-package food to make it healthier for kids. [ID:nN16109102]
“We need you not just to tweak around the edges but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children,” she said.
Last month, President Barack Obama asked Cabinet officers to come up with an interagency plan and asked his wife to head a national public awareness effort.
Two industry groups, the American Beverage Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have pledged their help.
The administration also said it would provide $400 million for its Healthy Food Financing Initiative to eliminate “food deserts” where the only food sources are typically convenience stores or gas stations. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan and Maggie Fox; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tim Dobbyn)