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Campbell's lowers salt in popular tomato soup

August 21, 2009 |  9:12 am
The red and white can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup is one of the most popular items sold in a grocery story, trailing only chicken noodle on the soup aisle.Soupclip_image001

So you can be sure that the executives at Campbell Soup Co. were both careful and nervous about reformulating this bestseller to remove salt.

"If we don't meet people's taste expectations, no one would buy it," said Juli Mandel Sloves, the company's spokeswoman.

Campbell's rolled out the new tomato soup this week, promising that extensive research and testing found that it tastes very much like the old version.

The difference? The new soup has 480 milligrams of sodium per serving, compared with 710 milligrams in the previous formulation. The reduction is part of a drive by the company to follow the advice of health and nutrition advocates and lower the sodium content of its products.

"We have lowered the sodium in our soups, beverages, sauces, pastas and breads," Mandel Sloves said.

Doctors recommend against eating more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. So that one serving of soup -- there are 2.5 in each can -- contains 21% of the suggested daily allowance, and even more for older people and individuals who are especially sensitive to salt. Consuming the entire can puts you at more than half of the daily allowance.

"We have clear and convincing evidence that sodium is associated with high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke -- and it is pretty consistent across populations and ethnic groups," said Dr. David Katz, a preventive medicine specialist at Yale University's Medical School. 

Was the reduction in tomato soup big enough?
"Campbell certainly deserves credit for sharply cutting the sodium of its most popular soup, as well as others," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of  the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit group active in nutrition and food safety issues.

But Jacobson, a vocal critic of restaurant chains and food manufacturers that sell salt-laden foods, said, "480 mg from a cup of soup is still a lot," and suggested that "health-conscious people should consider cutting back" on soups with high sodium levels.

Mandel Sloves said that "what's important is that we are reducing sodium. This is a journey."

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo credit: Campbell Soup Co.