LONDON — Unilever is beginning an effort to reduce the salt content of most everything in its food portfolio, which includes 22,000 products.

The goal is to reduce the salt content of products by the end of 2010 to help people reach the daily recommended dietary intake of 6 grams of salt per person. A further reduction would help limit salt intake to 5 grams per day, and Unilever hopes to help accomplish this by the end of 2015.

"Promoting a lower salt intake fits in with Unilever’s Vitality mission," said Gaby Vreeken, vice-president of marketing at Unilever Benelux. "It is an ambitious plan, but it can be done and really must be done. The challenge lies in achieving these results without compromising on flavor, quality and shelf-life of products.

"Approximately 75% of total salt intake comes from processed foods such as bread, cheese, meat, sauces and soups. Consumers will be more likely to adapt their taste preference to lower levels of salt if the food industry as a whole reduces salt levels."

Gert Meijer, vice-president of nutrition and health for Unilever, said the company is looking at how often consumers eat certain products and daily dietary contribution in their sodium reduction efforts. For example, he said eating soup accounts for 10% of salt intake, so if the company wants to help consumers stay under 6 grams of salt per day, Unilever soups need to contain no more than an average of 360 mg of sodium per 100 grams.