U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research Magazine 60(3): March 2012 pp. 22; ISSN 0002-161X


Salt has become one of a handful of sensitive nutrients in the public spotlight, according to major food company executives who attended the 2011 National Nutrient Databank Conference in Bethesda, Maryland. The conference is supported annually by the Agricultural Research Service’s Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) and Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG) and other organizations. Both ARS groups are part of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

Salting is an ancient food-preservation practice still in use today to help preserve some foods. While salt-cured country hams and corned beef are still crowd pleasers, 80 percent of our dietary sodium comes from salt added to processed foods, according to experts.

At the conference, three major food companies described long-term “silent” or “stealth” sodium-reduction plans. One company reported already having removed 2 million pounds of salt from retail food brands in less than 10 years. Another announced plans to reduce sodium in prepared foods by 10 percent before 2015. Yet another reported plans to reformulate 600 products to reduce sodium while identifying healthy, functional alternative ingredients. All of the food companies talked about the need to “retrain the American palate” and to give consumers time to “adapt their taste buds” to less salt in their retail foods.