USA Today Image, from Subway
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Subway is on a serious sodium squeeze.
The sandwich chain, which with 34,433 units has more locations globally than McDonald's, today will announce plans for a significant reduction in sodium at its U.S. stores that could ultimately nudge much of the fast-food industry to follow.
Beginning today, sodium content in Subway's "Fresh Fit" sandwich line in the U.S. will be cut 28 percent vs. 2009, when Subway first began to cut salt. And sodium in its overall sandwich line will be cut by 15 percent, compared with the same period.
Subway, whose sandwiches have sometimes been ridiculed as virtual sodium bombs, emerges as the first national fast-food chain to publicly announce such a sizable sodium reduction. The move comes at a time foodmakers and restaurant chains globally are facing increased pressure from lawmakers, advocacy groups and consumers to cut back on excess sodium - which is widely regarded as one of the root causes of America's biggest killers, heart disease.
"It's a huge deal," says Lanette Kovachi, corporate dietician at Subway. "We're the biggest in the industry and we're saying that sodium reduction can be done."
The sodium in a Subway Fresh Fit 6-inch sandwich will decline by 287 milligrams to 737 milligrams vs. 1,024 in 2009's numbers. The sodium in its 6-inch ham sandwich will drop by 430 milligrams to 830 from 1,260 in 2009. These measurements exclude extras such as cheese, pickles, olives and dressing.
Most of Subway's sandwiches are naturally high in sodium. Bread, cheese and many sliced meats typically have high sodium content. And most of its 12-inch sandwiches exceed the federal government's recommended daily guideline for adults of no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day.
The move by Subway follows previous sodium reductions it's already has made in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Later this year, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce its plan to push for lower sodium in foods.
Many major foodmakers already have jumped on the lower-sodium train. Over the past two years, Pepsico, ConAgra, Del Monte, General Mills and Campbell all have announced plans to reduce sodium in their foods.
"It's great to see large companies like Subway reducing sodium levels," says Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. "Hopefully, this won't be the end of the journey for Subway."
In fact, he chides, "They should try to bring it down by 50%."