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Yum report cites plans to reduce sodium, grow green efforts

LOUISVILLE Ky. Yum! Brands Inc. said in its first corporate responsibility report that it is working to reduce the sodium in menu items at the U.S. outlets of its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands.

News of Yum’s initiative comes as consumer advocacy groups and lawmakers increase their scrutiny of the sodium content in packaged and restaurant foods.

In the report, released Tuesday, Yum indicated that the initiative was prompted by health risks associated with consuming too much sodium, such as heart disease. The company, which said it has already lowered the amount of sodium in foods served at its brands in other parts of the world, did not outline details of its plan for the United States.

“Our leading brands in the U.S. — KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell — are working hard to reduce the sodium content in their product formulations,” the report said. “Sodium reduction remains a major challenge to the food industry in terms of taste and formulation as salt is a vitally important compound in cooking. We recognize we have an opportunity and a responsibility to make our consumers aware of their sodium intake and to offer food with lower sodium content.”

The report further stated that the company already has reduced the sodium content in the food served at its overseas businesses. For example, KFC operations in the United Kingdom have reduced the amount of salt they use by more than 85 tons a year. In Australia, the chain currently is testing products with reduced sodium content. In South Korea, Pizza Hut restaurants are introducing cheese that is 25 percent lower in sodium and pepperoni and meat toppings that are 40 percent lower in sodium. And in Canada, KFC and Pizza Hut are conducting consumer research on sodium reduction.

Yum is the second major restaurant company to announce plans to reduce sodium in its food items. In November, Burger King said it would only market kids’ meals that contain no more than 600 milligrams of sodium.

In addition, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently held an exploratory meeting with several restaurateurs and members of the local health department to discuss the possibility of lowering the sodium content of food served in the city's restaurants.

In other news, Yum also said in the report that it is exploring the possibility of increasing its eco-friendly initiatives to include the conversion of KFC’s cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and that it is creating its first “green” restaurant in Northampton, Mass. The store will be a combined KFC-Taco Bell unit made of recycled building materials.

Yum, based in Louisville, Ky., operates or franchises nearly 36,000 restaurants in more than 110 countries and territories under the KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and A&W brands.

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