One could argue that salt and the human obsession with it aligns with the fabric of world history and civilization itself—in trade, production and culinary habits—points that Mark Kurlansky make in Salt: A World History.
We take things with a grain of salt, we work—some of us anyway—in the salt mines, tell salty salacious stories during Happy Hour and what would that potato chip or French fry be without salt? Pretty bland, and even the “salt substitutes” out there don’t quite fill the bill—or at least this Bill. And, fun factoid: did you know that salt is the only rock we eat?
Generally speaking, food tastes better with salt and the food industry, especially the processed food industry, knows this very well.
So when Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage maker, pledges to accelerate the reduction of salt across all of its food brands, that’s a pretty spicy development. Nestlé said this month that its planned reduction supports a World Health Organization salt target of no more than 5g of salt per person, per day, by 2025.
“The decision will further reduce salt levels across Nestlé’s hundreds of savory products including soups, noodles, recipe mixes, frozen and chilled meals and pizzas, in popular brands including Maggi, Stouffer’s, DiGiorno and Buitoni,” the company said in a news release.
In addition, all of the culinary brand innovations the company launches “will be specially formulated with an even lower level of sodium,” it said.
“We have made great strides in reducing the salt content of our food products in recent years and we want to build on that progress,” said Henri-Pierre Lenoble, Nutrition, Health and Wellness manager, Nestlé Food.
Nestlé’s announcement followed a recent Washington conference on dietary salt consumption organized by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional Americas Office of the World Health Organization.
The company says that since 2005, it has worked “to progressively and continuously reduce the salt in its foods and make them healthier for consumers.”
By 2012, Nestlé recipes contained 14,043 fewer tons of salt than in 2005, the company says. It added that it is committed to reducing the amount of salt in its high sodium products – such as ready meals, soups, noodles, recipe mixes and pizzas – by at least 10 percent in the next three years. Its one-page fact sheet has more information on salt reduction.
Studies indicate that the food industry’s overuse of salt in pre-processed and microwaveable foods is a major source of Americans’ excess sodium intake, according to ThinkProgress, and contributes to as many as 100,000 American deaths every year. Salt over-consumption is cited by the medical community as a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
So the argument goes that reducing the salt content in processed foods is a highly effective way to limit sodium intake at the source, so to speak, because it’s done before ever reaching the consumer. Currently, even people who don’t want to eat food laden with salt have little recourse since many foods come pre-loaded with it.
Scientists say there are more than 14,000 uses for salt. Evil spirits hate it, and it protects one from the evil eye. It’s both essential for the human body to function, but as my doctor always warns me, unhealthy when consumed in excess.
It’s potent stuff and should be handled with care, and thanks to Nestlé, maybe we’re now more aware. Better to pass on the salt, than to pass the salt.
[Image: Salt Shaker by jhhwild via Flickr cc]