07/25/2011 03:26 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

Sodium Debate Rages On As Restaurants Tweak Salt Usage

Scientists have been debating sodium intake's relation to health for decades. One study says salt reduction is the key to hypertension reduction; another says salt only harms African-Americans, the elderly and the obese. One recent study said that focusing on sodium levels per se is naive; instead, it suggested, we should target our potassium-to-sodium ratio.

It's hard not to want to fall back on the oldest salt advice in the Western world, in the Book of Job: "Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?"

That, anyways, seems to the attitude Campbell's has started to take up. After the soup company, responding to health concerns, shifted to lower-sodium products, customers started to complain the taste of their revised soup recipes. The soup was bland. Sales fell. So now, Campbell's is increasing its sodium use to a level between the reduced-sodium norm they'd adopted and the old, high-sodium level they had for years.

Meanwhile, other restaurants, in anticipation of potential regulation on sodium use by fast-food chains, more and more restaurants and companies are trying to reduce their salt use without telling customers, reports the Chicago Tribune. This way, they could skirt government backlash without turning off halophilic customers. The hope is that customers can't actually taste the difference between low- and high-sodium foods. Campbell's problem, in this frame of mind, was that customers had been prompted by advertising to expect bland, low-sodium taste, so that's what they really tasted. Without the prompting, they may not notice they're eating healthier food. Given that none of the conflicting studies have found many benefits to high-salt diets, that's probably a good thing.