OMAHA, NEB. — ConAgra Foods Inc. announced on Oct. 15 plans to reduce salt by 20% from its food products by 2015. Executives point out the company has already removed more than 2 million pounds of salt from it products since 2006. The company’s pledge will ultimately remove 10 million pounds of salt from American diets each year.

More than 20 years ago, ConAgra Foods introduced Healthy Choice meals to the marketplace. It is the first, and remains the only, line of meals in the grocery store to earn the "healthy" label, in part, for meeting the U.S. government’s recommendations for healthy sodium levels, the company said.

"Sodium reduction is part of our ongoing work to make food more nutritious," said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods chief executive officer. "Americans need less salt in their diets, and they want less salt in their diets. We have the capability to meet consumer wants and needs — food people love not only because it tastes good, but also because it’s better for them."

ConAgra relays the latest HealthFocus Trend Report notes both interest in and use of lower-salt options among primary grocery shoppers has increased dramatically during the last four years. In 2004, 19% of shoppers said they used low-sodium products once a week or more, compared to 41% using low-sodium products once a week or more in 2008.

Building on the knowledge and expertise gained through their development of recipes for Healthy Choice, ConAgra Foods’ chefs and scientists have worked diligently since 2006 to reduce salt in various brands, such as Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn and Chef Boyardee pasta, the company said. To date, this work has resulted in 2 million fewer pounds of salt per year in the domestic food supply.

It was earlier projected that if the entire food industry were to reduce salt by 20% across product portfolios, U.S. medical costs might be reduced by as much as $4 billion to $10 billion annually.