Which Strategy to Reduce Salt Would Work for You?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each time I review a new restaurant for our ongoing Food on the Run or Diet Friendly Dining series, there are always comments wondering why there is so much sodium in restaurant food.

A new Annals of Internal Medicine article looking at information from a cost-effectiveness analysis of sodium reduction strategies suggests that change may be right around the corner.

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a sodium intake of 2,300 mg or less each day, as many as 75 percent of us consume more. Researchers believe cutting sodium intake could save billions of dollars in health care costs by significantly reducing the numbers of heart attacks and strokes that occur each year. A Stanford University School of Medicine study team along with the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System used computer models to evaluate salt intake reduction models. They reviewed two scenarios to reduce populous salt intake -- one using a voluntary collaboration model and the other which included a national tax on salt.

A government and industry collaboration was projected to reduce American salt intake by 9.5 percent compared to a salt tax that was suspected to only reduce intake by six percent. These model findings supported what has been found effective in Britain through their recent voluntary salt reduction campaign. The campaign in Britain has caused a 20 to 30 percent decrease in salt content of processed foods sold since 2003. Other countries such as Japan, Australia and Canada have launched similar initiatives according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By cutting salt intake by 10 percent, adults between the ages of 40 and 85 could see 513,885 fewer fatal strokes and 480,358 fewer heart attacks over their lifetime. The largest majority of salt intake comes from processed foods and restaurant meals so it would be necessary for the food industry to cooperate if intake reductions were to happen. While health agencies would prefer voluntary cooperation, salt content regulations may be necessary and mandated for compliance with targets. In January, the city of New York began encouraging food makers and restaurants to reduce salt use with a challenge to meet a 25 percent reduction over the next five years.

What do you think will work better – voluntary reductions and collaboration or salt taxes? Why?

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No, no, no. We don't need a salt tax. Who do you think will be paying for that salt tax. Just requiring restaurants and food producers to reduce by 10% the first year, 15% the second, and so on, would allow everyone to become adjusted slowly. I never add salt any more, never except for on a baked potato, anyway.
5 Report
As with the posting of nutritional information on menus, I think most restaurants won't go along with this unless they are forced to by state or federal government. Salt tastes good, so it sells more food. Reducing salt will cause many restuarants and food manufacturers - especially those marketing low calorie or low fat products, since often the lack of flavor in these foods leads manufacturers to add additional salt and/or sugar - to find new ways to flavor food. I would like to see less sodium in the everyday foods we eat. After tracking my sodium here on SP for a few weeks, I am very disheartened in my efforts to reduce amounts in my diet. Basically, the only way to stay in the healthy range is to prepare ALL of your food yourself, using nothing pre-packaged and never eating out - something that just isn't practical for me. Report
I think everyone should make the decision to cut back. There is salt in everything. I cut way back and now can really taste it in foods that I have not prepared myself. There is always salt substitute. Report
Salt tax is a joke. Report
Sure...and tax my air too Democrats!!!! Report
I don't think we need a tax, but come on people! If the reduction in heart attacks and strokes is in the millions, why not have a law requiring a reduction the sodium content of our food? Obviously, it wouldn't eliminate all salt in products, but it could make a significant dent.

Trying to stay within my daily sodium requirements is hard enough without eating out. I get some convienence foods like soup, which is low in calories and fairly filling, but even with the low sodium variety, I get half or more of my daily sodium in one meal. That is ridiculous! Why not suddely help people who aren't helping themselves? If they still feel the food needs more salt, they can add some, but for the rest of us that don't want so much, there will be even more convienent grocery store and restaurant options. Plus those who need more for health reasons can also convienently add some with the salt shaker that is readily available at your home or every restaurant. Report
I agree with wiseterri2! It is not the role of government to tell individuals what they can and cannot eat. A tax is just another way to fill the coffers. Stay out of my personal life....I'm a big girl! I can manage the salt shaker at my house all by myself! I have stopped buying certain products because of the high sodium content. Let's vote with our dollars. Report
They've taxed cigarettes up the ying yang and people still smoke. Taxation doesn't work for abstinence. Report
A tax is not the way to combat salt intake. Those who really want their sodium-laden foods will find a way to get it- possibly at the reduction of their healthier foods! The only thing a tax on salt would benefit would be government's coffers, and there's no guarantee that money would be used for health services.

I don't generally have a problem with table salt, myself. Then again, I can taste when there's "too much" in my foods and it makes me not want to eat anymore. Sodium, on the other hand....

A lot of people just probably don't understand the dangers of sodium. While we can say "Too much fat is bad for you because of this and this and that." and "Too many carbohydrates are bad for you because..." many average joes (like myself) can't exactly tell you why sodium's bad for you. "Too much sodium's bad for you because it increases your blood pressure." "Oh yeah? How?" "...Uhm..." Some education is needed on the how's and why's, and not just the end result. Report
I know people are going to hate this comment, but here goes anyway.....I have always been a nonsmoker around smokers and I gotta say, those people love their salt! I'm guessing if the tax on the cigarettes won't get them away from it, the tax on the salt won't either! Plus, it'll just give the smokers another thing to gripe about since they can't smoke their cigarette while eating their salt covered food inside the restaurant! Report
Educate the public and encourage the use of herbs and spices without sodium. Read labels! I like lemon pepper but can find only one brand that contains no salt. I am very sodium sensitive and have learned to cook the last 40 years with little or no salt. It can be done! Report
I always try not to put too much salt, but for some reason I love the taste of salt. I have high blood pressure so I am supposed to be limiting the amount. I working at it. Report
The food industry is already aware of what the sodium content of their food is. They also know that it's too much, and that is not good for people in general.
Tax is an unrealistic "solution" to the problem. They raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and that doesn't really get people to quit, it just gives them another thing to complain about.
A voluntary reduction won't work across the board. In all honesty the companies that already care have already reduced the amount of sodium (if they needed to) that they put in their products. I think the only thing that is going to work is if consumers (ever hear of consumer-driven???) push for a change. A required change would work, but then you'd get a lot of people fired up and complaining loudly how they don't care if it's good or bad for them, they liked it the way it was...
I have just read 2 blogs in a row that suggested, if not advocated a "food tax". I am encouraged to read that so many people still have the common sense and self respect to oppose such measures. Once upon a time I would simply have laughed uproarously at such an asinine suggestion as a "salt tax".

No longer.

Now it makes me angry.

At what point in time do we stop being pathetic sheep and stand up and say ENOUGH! At what point do we tell the government to keep it's tentacles out of our lives? At what point do we tell the government to get it's fingers out of our pockets? I've reached that point and beyond.

For those who have no problem with this - let me tell you - mind your own !*^#*& business! If you don't want to eat certain things then don't. But how dare you dictate to me what is and is not appropriate for ME! Report
I start out my meal with no salt. Then, if it is not satisfying I will eat as much as I can until the last few bites and then put some salt on that so my perception is that the meal tasted great! Cuts my salt in half. Report
It's even difficult with out eating out to stay below the 2300, but if I eat out, I know that I am most likely going to go over. I would love it if restaurants would lower their sodium. Report
I'm all for restuarants and the food industry reducing sodium in their meals. Report
Salt tax is silly...It won't work...they put higher taxes on liquor and cigarettes...that didnt stop people from drinking or smoking Report
Salt tax is crazy. Report
I think we should try voluntary reductions and collaboration. It's hard to enforce that though. I'm not in favor of taxing. Report
Restaurants and processed foods are evil culprits when it comes to salt. Is it possible to give those a break that lower the sodium content instead of taxing it?

Seriously, I spend more money on groceries to eat "healthy" why make it worse on us with lower incomes???? Report
Our governement passed a law making illegal for the industries to have more than a certain % of salt in their produces.
I hope they'll pass more laws like this one. Report
I think voluntary reductions in salt are better. A salt tax- no way! Report
I think we need less government intervention, not more. I really think that if we instituted a salt tax, companies would just find some other horrid man-made chemical to skirt around paying the taxes, leading to even MORE horrible health benefits. Report
Salt is like everything else, too much of a good thing is not good. We need salt in our diet, we just do not need as much is we get. I think resturants and food processors should cut the amout of salt added to food. Allow people to add the salt they need. Let it be a personal choice how much salt you consume. Report
I agree with many others - don't tax the salt - some of us need it due to low blood sugar, etc. I went for many years with using as little as possible, for my husband's problems & doctor instructions. After he passed away and checking on "me", doctor has me needing to INCREASE sodium to eliminate some problems. So don't make it "more expensive" for those of us who need more sodium - let's try it voluntarily. Report
Again with the "tax it, tax it" mindset. Speaking for myself, if I want something, I'm going to get it, regardless of what it costs. Report
My faith in the average person doing something good for mankind that may lower their income( not as much taste in low salt foods) is poor. I only think that when it comes to our health, that the majority of restaurants will keep the salt up cause it makes everything taste much better and doesn't cost them anything to use as oppossed to herbs and no salt seasonings. I believe that if it is regulated, it'll happen faster and will be something we can count on more than on a voluntary basis. Report
I believe that there are ways that food processors could cut the sodium content. If society got use to eating sodium free process foods, they would eventually not miss the salt. Report
Voluntary reductions. It's all about taking responsibility for your own actions. Besides, if you don't like salt in restaurant food, don't eat it! Or ask for it to be prepared with less salt.

Governments tend to think we're stupid and don't understand that certain things are bad for us-and they're wrong. People still smoke, drink, eat fast food, don't exercise, etc, because they don't want to. It shouldn't be up to the nanny state to make decisions on how people live their lives. If they want to die earlier of obesity or lung cancer, but indulge in a habit they enjoy, so be it. Report
I have been cuting my salt intake for years. I never add it to any foods and never have keep the salt on the table. With all that I still tend to just go over what this site says should be my intake. I have to wonder how much salt others are getting
without watching what they eat when I watch everything because of kidney problems. Report
Voluntary reduction is thef way to go. Each one of us must be held accountable for our own actions and what food we intake. Report
I never placed a salt shaker on the table so my girls never got into that habit. A tax sounds a little like too much big brother. Report
Why is it that the first cure for anything is always a tax? If we had less taxes perhaps people would have more money to purchase the more expensive healthier items in the grocery store to begin with. Report
I recently had a pleasant conversation with one of the buyers from a local supermarket. I asked if there were any plans to increase the low-salt offerings for things such as tinned beans. Right now I can get low-salt garbanzos, and low-salt diced tomotoes. He said he had actually received a catalogue just the day before listing all sorts of low or sodium free products. He is indeed planning to increase low-salt products. Report
If the amount of salt used in processed food (including restaurant offerings) is truly dangerous, then I see no harm in regulating the amounts. But I would only suggest this after voluntary measures were shown to be a failure.

I do not agree with a salt tax. In a sense this would be like a tax on water or air. Salt is necessary for life...just not too much.

And yes, there are people with low blood pressure who may need to increase their salt intake. Salt must not be seen as a "poison in any amount". This is simply not true.

I have also noticed that a lot of the recipes in the Sparks Recipes are quite high in sodium. Surprises me... Report
I think tax on certain foods is ridiculous. people choose their own food intake and its their responsibility not the governments to control our weight. Maybe more knowledge to the consumers or maybe even regulating the restaurants to have good healthy meals as a choice so they can help educate the consumer. Report
Taxes won't work, but I believe that restaurants should be required to provide the nutritional analysis of their food (salt included). My experience at restaurants with the service personnel is that they don't know and can't quickly find out information if you ask. Even the staff of the Subways here couldn't tell me for the longest time what combination of condiments kept their sandwiches to the advertised 6 grams of fat. They have changed their menu boards now to make this more clear (at least mine has), but what - after several years of starting this advertising and asking?! Report
I am very happy to see that so many of you sparkers agree that our government has no place intruding into our personal choices! Report
Voluntary reductions and collaboration makes more sense than a salt tax. But, menu's should be required to show sodium content. Report
I would prefer a voluntary system. I don't believe that government should be dictating what we eat or how much. As it is, I will ask servers which menu items are lower in salt, I will ask that vegetables not be seasoned, and I ask that sauces (which is one place that salt seems to hide along with fat) are served on the side. There are enough people on low-sodium diets now, that these three requests are not unusual and are usually easily complied with. Even cruise ship lines will serve their dining room meals with less sodium if you notify them ahead of time. Report
Why tax more things? I think if people knew about it and cared about it, they would lessen their salt intake. Report
educate people and perhaps many would voluntarily reduce sodium intake. I don't believe anyone wants the government to try to impose more standards on us. I am already worried we slowly turning into a socialist country! Report
I believe that voluntary reduction would work best. Forcing people or industry to do something is rarely effective and just fosters resentment.
I have high blood pressure and have been making a concentrated effort to reduce my sodium intake. For me, what works best is having information available; I read labels and make choices based on the information I find. If manufacturers make a point of labelling their product as reduced or low in sodium, and if restaurant menus pointed out lower sodium choices, I would be far more likely to pick up that product and investigate, or patronise that establishment. Report
I don't think a tax would work on this one, but letting people know how many strokes and heart attacks could be avoided each year between what ages would help make people more aware of the dangers of high sodium intake. I think that holding the industry to a higher standard should be mandatory... They overload the food with way too much sodium as it is, and could probably reduce the content by at least 25-50% without affecting the overall taste and/or quality. The consumers should all start banding together and demanding that they do better at reducing the content, but not buying the product period, and by going to other brands which offer the heathier alternatives. Report
I have not used salt in cooking for over a year and we are used to adding flavour just with spices. Manufacturers are the culprits, especially bakers who use far too much salt to add flavour to cheap, over-processed flour. We eat as little processed food as possible though some foods are difficult to manage without eg dairy products. Food tastes much nicer without salt, try it Report
No salt tax, but the food industry really needs to help out. Salt can always be added to prepared dishes, if more is wanted, but salt cannot be taken off! Once I asked for unsalted French fries at a fast food place and there was no problem, except I had to wait for them to be cooked. I no longer eat fries, so that problem is gone. I had to stop picking up food at a hospital cafeteria because there was too much salt on everything. What a shame, because they had many vegetables and the price was economical. Some pressure needs to be put on the food industry! Report
A tax on salt? Makes me think of the Boston Tea Party. We can't keep letting government increase hidden taxes. People need to be educated about the dangers of too much salt, the salt content of processed foods needs to be provided to consumers, and people need to take personal responsibility. Report
Neither solution sounds logical to me. Several people have made valid points such as low blood pressure for example. The decision on the use of and how much salt to apply to food still should lie with the individual. Voluntary reduction is the best way because the individual is choosing to lessen their salt intake. Report
Come on now,what next. It is up to the individual to police their salt intake and what ever one puts in our mouths. Enough is enough! Report
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