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Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States
salt taste) within the limitations of their budgets. Consumers must understand the importance of sodium reduction through education efforts so that this information can influence the level of satisfaction they obtain from consumption of foods. Furthermore, it would be helpful to reduce sodium using an incremental approach to assist consumers in adjusting their preferences for salt taste in foods. The price of foods with lower sodium content influences consumer choices and thus is also a factor affecting sodium reduction strategies. When considering consumers as part of households, changes in the way households allocate their time for food preparation have implications for sodium consumption because households are increasingly relying on processed and prepared foods from grocery stores and foods from restaurants and other foodservice operations. These changes in household time allocation make it more difficult for households to understand and control the sodium content of their diets and thus imply a need to change the sodium content of the food supply.
Consumer “Value” Associated with Food
The field of consumer theory suggests that consumers derive utility from the properties or characteristics of goods purchased and consumed. The term “utility” in this case means the satisfaction obtained from consuming a product, and the term “goods” would include foods. In the context of food choices, consumers derive utility from consuming individual foods depending on characteristics such as taste, nutrient content, calories, and sensory characteristics. Because the taste of some foods is derived from the presence of salt and because salt improves other flavors, salt taste and the presence of salt can be among the many characteristics of food from which consumers derive utility. Furthermore, goods consumed in combination possess characteristics different from those of the individual goods (Lancaster, 1966). Thus, foods may be combined or prepared in a way that alters the joint set of characteristics. In other words, a consumer may add salt to foods to alter their taste or may combine ingredients with varying levels of salt.
As with all types of goods, consumers faced with a set of food choices will choose a set of foods to maximize utility within the limitations of their budgets (Lancaster, 1966). Consumers consider the combinations of characteristics of different foods while making purchasing decisions. Thus, if consumers have optimized their food choices based on the existing set of characteristics, a noticeable change in the characteristics of foods might reduce their utility if there is no other type of compensating change. In the context of sodium content, a noticeable reduction in the salt taste of a food might decrease consumer utility unless there is a corresponding change in how consumers derive utility from consumption of foods. One possible