New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this afternoon that a number of food companies will participate in an initiative to cut the amount of salt in their products.
Sixteen food makers and restaurant chains will reduce sodium in such products as ketchup and bacon. The companies include H.J. Heinz Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Mars Foods, Francesco Rinaldi, and Starbucks.
"I can tell you that I for one will patronize them more, and I for one will encourage others to do so," said the mayor.
Bloomberg, in making the announcement, admitted that he himself has a fondness for the flavor.
"In all fairness, I have an admission to make -- what has been written about me is true -- I love salt," said Bloomberg, conceding that he puts it on popcorn, bagels, pizza and other already-salty snacks.
But, the mayor pointed out, sodium is a major cause of high blood pressure and hypertension, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
"These conditions kill more than 23,000 New Yorkers alone each year," said Bloomberg. "This is really a terrible tragedy, and also a very expensive one."
He also noted that "the amount of salt you put on something is negligible -- it's a very tiny percentage of the total salt you consume in one day."
In January, the city's health department released guidelines suggesting the maximum amount of salt that should be in all sorts of manufactured and packaged foods.
Unlike the city's restaurant trans fat ban, and its calorie-posting rules, the salt initiative is voluntary. Health officials are hoping for a 20 percent reduction in general public's sodium intake by the year 2014.
Bloomberg said that initiative aims to change the way people eat -- for their own good.
"It wont affect manufacturing, the public will get their palate changed over time, it's a win-win for everybody," said the mayor.