The Assault on Salt

"I think that we need to have inducements to get the food industry overall to reduce the salt," he said. "One group, one company may be hesitant to do that because the competitor is not. So I think we need to level the playing field and really push them to do so."

But some companies already have started to decrease the amount of salt they use.

Kraft has already trimmed sodium levels in those Lunchables by 10% and they've vowed to cut 10 percent of the sodium from all of its North American products over the next two years.

Heinz aims to decrease its sodium usage in ketchup by 15 percent.

General Mills, Sara Lee, Campbells and others have made similar claims.

Other companies are changing the way we eat salt. Food scientists at PepsiCo Inc., makers of Lay's chips, are developing so-called "designer salts," with crystals that are shaped differently to pack a more salty punch while using less sodium.

Subtle Changes, Big Difference

As for Sacks, he's taking a more grassroots approach: He approached the chef at his favorite restaurant in Boston and asked him to reduce the amount of salt he used in his dishes by 25 percent.

Researchers say that when salt is reduced by one quarter, our taste buds cannot recognize the difference.

"In the old days, I would have just heavily salted the fish. I would have flipped it over and done it on both sides," said Gordon Hamersley, head chef at Hamersley's Bistro in Boston. "What I used to do and what I'm doing now, there's a big difference."

Hamersley said that, so far, his customers have not complained about the change and no one has sent the food back. Still, it is a significant change for those in the kitchen.

"You know the old adage: 'The difference between a good cook and a great cook is a pound of butter and a box of salt,'" he said. "We were brought up that way. That's how we think."

So how does one go about changing that line of thinking for other chefs?

"It's a macho thing," Hamersley said. "We just have to beat on them."

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