Nestlé has jumped on board with a controversial government initiative to make its products healthier

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Kit Kat “nachos”
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Kit Kat

Nestléis getting serious about cutting sodium from its products.

The company is launching an effort to boost the number of foods and beverages that fit the World Health Organization’s suggested diet with less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day, Nestlé announced in a press release on Thursday.

Currently, just 43% of Nestlé’s foods, which includes brands such as Kit-Kat, Toll House cookies, and Lean Cuisine, meet this target.

Perhaps more surprising isNestlé’s decision to come out in support of the US Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to release new voluntary sodium targets – a change that is intended to decrease Americans’ sodium intake that has been opposed by many in the food industry.

“We are committed to constantly improving the nutritional profile of our products, but we also recognize that effective solutions to public health challenges require broad, multi-stakeholder efforts,” Nestlé’s USA CEO Paul Grimwood said in a statement.

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Shutterstock

Nutrition advocacy organizations have pushed for updated targets, which were completed two years ago but have never been released. Groups such as the American Health Organization argue thatpeople who want to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke should only consume a maximum of 2,000 mg of sodium a day, significantly less than the FDA’s current recommendation of 3,400 mg.

“By urging the FDA to release voluntary sodium standards,Nestléis paving the way to empower the public to make better food choices,” the American Heart Association said in a press release. “The American Heart Association joins industry leaders like Nestlé and Mars Foods in supporting the release of these standards because they have the potential to impact lives.”

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Uncle Ben’s Rice, one of Mars Food’s targets for sodium reduction
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Uncle Ben’s Rice

In April, Mars Food’s announced support of the release of the FDA’s new targets, as well as a goal to reduce sodium in products by an average of 20% by 2021.

Even with Mars andNestlé’s backing, it is unclear if the new targets will be released any time soon.

Industry groups such as theGrocery Manufacturers Association(a group of which Nestlé USA is a member) and The Salt Institute have opposed the release of the new targets, saying there isn’t sufficient evidenceto support the lower-sodium recommendations.

And, an Agriculture Appropriations Bill approved by the House Committee in April would delay the advancement or promotion of any new sodium guidelines untilafter more research is done on the issue.

However, the energy surrounding the initiative suggests that the packaged foods industry is becoming more savvy of the increased sentiment surrounding wellness, or at least the longevity of their loyal consumers.