Mandatory sodium limits for processed foods could be 20 times more effective than voluntary reduction measures. Linda Cobiac, et al., “Cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce dietary salt intake,” Heart, November 2010. Australian researchers evaluated the public health benefits and cost-effectiveness of four possible strategies for reducing dietary salt: (i) the current Australian program that provides incentives for food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sodium in their processed foods, (ii) a government mandate to moderate salt in processed foods, (iii) dietary advice for people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and (iv) dietary advice for anyone at high risk.

Writing that “dietary advice targeting individuals is not cost-effective,” the study’s authors concluded that programs which “encourage the food industry to reduce salt in processed foods are highly recommended for improving population health and reducing health sector spending in the long term.” They suggested, however, that “regulatory action from government may be needed to achieve the potential of significant improvements in population health.”