Food giants Kraft Foods, Heinz and Unilever were today (26 April) named among the signatories to a US push to lower the amount of salt in foods.

The companies are among 16 manufacturers to have joined the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a programme first announced in January and drawn up to cut the level of salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over five years.

The scheme was developed by health officials in New York City but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said food companies, which also include Hain Celestial, McCain Foods and Subway, had helped draw up the initiative.

"By working together over the past two years, we have been able to accomplish something many said was impossible; setting concrete, achievable goals for salt reduction,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The National Salt Reduction Initiative has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives that otherwise would be lost to cardiovascular disease in coming years.”

Last week, the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) urged the Food and Drug Administration to work with manufacturers to introduce mandatory limits on the amount of salt added to food.

The IOM said reductions in sodium could prevent more than 100,000 deaths in the US each year.