Food Companies Quietly Cutting Salt

The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 grams of salt per day, but it’s very hard for Americans to meet that goal given our biological drive to seek it and the fact that many processed foods contain high levels. But some food companies are trying to reduce salt in their products using a variety of techniques, including some they’re hoping consumers won’t even notice.

Mondelez, the Kraft spin-off that includes Ritz crackers, is one of those companies. Todd Abraham, senior vice president for research and nutrition, says Ritz has gone through a number of transformations over the past few years in an effort to reduce salt stealthily. Consumers, he notes, like the idea of lower salt in general but not specifically when it comes to the taste of a product or its name.

Ritz, for example, offers a line of overtly lower-salt crackers called “Hint of Salt,” but that line sells considerably less than regular Ritz crackers. Nonetheless, Mondelez, which says it is committed to lowering salt in its products, has also reduced the salt in the regular Ritz by about 20% through a variety of techniques including increasing the perceived saltiness by removing salt from the cracker dough and putting it on the outside of the cracker, using smaller grains of salt, replacing some salt with herbs, and adding potassium chloride. But it’s important, he says, to reduce the salt slowly over time so consumers’ tastes can adjust. Experts have long known that if people reduce their salt intake slowly, their desire for salt will fall as well.

New data to be published in the January issue of Pediatrics suggests that salt reduction strategies may be useful in preventing childhood obesity, another reason these efforts are welcome.

Click here to read the complete NPR story and here to read the study of dietary salt, sugar-sweetened beverages, and obesity risk in Pediatrics.

Salt Crystals Image © Mark Schellhase / Wikimedia Commons