General Mills Inc. says it will cut the amount of sodium by 20 percent in a number of its cereals, soups, snacks and other products by 2015.
General Mills, which makes foods such as Cheerios cereal and Progresso soup, is the latest of several major food makers to reduce the salt in its foods as regulators and consumers push for healthier products.
The company, based in Minneapolis, said Tuesday that the reductions will affect about 600 items — roughly 40 percent of its products.
"We listen to our consumers," company spokeswoman Heidi Geller said. "We know that some would prefer to see lower levels of sodium in their foods, which is why we are committed to reducing sodium levels in products where we know we can make a meaningful difference."
Health experts say Americans eat too much salt, the vast majority of it in processed food. That excess is dangerous because salt contributes to high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, kidney disease, heart disease or heart failure.
General Mills said about 31 percent of its portfolio already is low in sodium, based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's definition. The company has been trimming sodium for five years, including cutting the amount in Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios cereals by 16 percent and Chex Snack Mixes by 36 percent.
The new reductions will add to those.
Other food makers that have recently announced changes to their products to meet regulatory pressure and consumer desire for healthier products include Kraft Foods Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc. and Campbell Soup Co.
Kraft said in March that it would cut salt the products it sells in North America by an average of 10 percent over the next two years. ConAgra said in October that it would cut sodium 20 percent over five years. And Campbell said in December that it would cut the sodium in its SpaghettiOs canned pasta by up to 35 percent.
General Mills also announced late last year that it planned to lower the amount of sugar in its cereals marketed to children.
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