By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Spoonful of salt (sodium)The world’s largest food and beverage company is speeding up its efforts to reduce the amount of sodium in its products, which include popular brands such as Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine and Gerber.

Currently, less than half of Nestlé’s foods fit into a dietary pattern of below 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day, the company said Thursday. Nestlé said it will increase the number of foods and beverages that fall below that daily limit.

Nestlé also called on the Food and Drug Administration to issue long-awaited voluntary targets for sodium in packaged foods.

Having already reduced sodium by 22.7 percent between 2005 and 2012, Nestle said it will cut sodium by another 10 percent in products that do not meet its Nestlé Nutritional Foundation criteria.

The announcement comes less than a month after Mars Food, which makes the popular brand of Uncle Ben’s rice products, urged FDA action and pledged to lower sodium in its processed foods by an average of 20 percent by 2021.

Processed foods’ high salt content is a major health concern because consuming too much sodium can trigger high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Nearly 80 percent of the salt Americans eat comes from foods purchased in the supermarket or restaurants.

On average, Americans consume 3,400 mg of sodium a day, more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association to maintain good heart health and help reduce blood pressure.