Campbell's stirs up controversy

Campbell Soup's Denise Morrison, who will become CEO on August 1, stirred up some controversy Tuesday when she announced plans to add salt to a once lower-sodium line of soups, reports ABC News. She told analysts that Campbell -- in response to taste complaints about its Select Harvest soups -- tweaked the recipes and added some salt.


When first introduced, the line, contained 800mg of sodium per serving, they were reformulated in 2008 to contain only 480mg, and the latest reformulation will contain 650mg.


"We know that many consumers take great interest in the impact of the foods they eat on their long-term health and well-being," said Morrison. "But we also recognize that the health and wellness attributes of foods mean different things to different people. For many, weight loss and weight maintenance is of primary importance. Others define their wellness needs in terms of vegetable nutrition, sodium reduction, energy and stamina, or digestive health. Thus, reducing sodium is just one component of our wellness strategy."


While analysts praised the move, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)  panned it, saying it put profit before public health. "Why not improve their soups with more and better-quality vegetables and chicken, or with herbs and spices? I suppose that's a question that answers itself, and the answer is money," CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "Campbell enjoys a huge profit margin selling what are often basically overpriced disease-promoting cans of salt and water." Harsh, to be sure!

The FDA currently recommends no more than 2,300mg -- roughly a teaspoon -- of salt per day. But most Americans get about 3,400mg per day, according to an Institute of Medicine report, and the authors suggest gradually reducing the amount of salt allowed in food to give the American palate a chance to adjust.


Giving consumers a choice meanwhile, Campbell will extend its Healthy Request line, which averages 410mg of sodium and carries the American Heart Association's stamp of approval, from 25 soups to 33. The company also will continue to provide more than 50 soups in its Condensed, Chunky, Select Harvest and V8 product lines where sodium has been reduced between 10 percent and 50 percent in the past few years.


Recently published pro-sodium studies suggest that food manufacturers across the board should actually be following Campbell's lead. A recent scientific paper by The Cochrane Library, published in the Journal of Hypertension, came to conclusion that "cutting down on the amount of salt has no clear benefits in terms of likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease," reports Forbes. And a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association surmised that people who eat lower amounts of sodium are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and that, among those with normal blood pressure, sodium intake didn't lead to high blood pressure.


So, what do you think about Campbell's latest strategy, and its affect on other manufacturers?