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ConAgra Foods to Reduce Sodium in Products by 20 Percent by 2015

Work already begun on taking 10 million pounds of salt out of American diets

OMAHA, Neb.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 15, 2009-- ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) one of North America’s leading food makers, today announced its pledge to reduce salt across its portfolio of food products by 20 percent by 2015. Since 2006, the company has already removed more than 2 million pounds of salt from its products. Today’s pledge adds 8 million pounds of salt to the equation, with the company ultimately removing 10 million pounds of salt from American diets each year.

The company’s commitment builds on ConAgra Foods’ legacy as a leader in helping consumers reduce and control sodium intake. More than 20 years ago, ConAgra Foods introduced Healthy Choice® meals to the marketplace—the first, and still the only, line of meals in the grocery store to earn the “healthy” label, in part, for meeting the U.S. government’s recommendations for healthy sodium levels.

“Sodium reduction is part of our ongoing work to make food more nutritious,” said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods CEO. “Americans need less salt in their diets, and they want less salt in their diets. We have the capability to meet consumer wants and needs—food people love not only because it tastes good, but also because it’s better for them.”

In fact, the latest HealthFocus Trend Report noted that both interest in and use of lower salt options among primary grocery shoppers has increased dramatically over the past four years. In 2004, 19 percent of shoppers indicated they used low-sodium products once a week or more, compared to 41 percent using low-sodium products once a week or more in 2008.

Building on the knowledge and expertise gained through their development of recipes for Healthy Choice, ConAgra Foods’ chefs and scientists have worked diligently since 2006 to reduce salt in various brands, such as Orville Redenbacher’s® popcorn and Chef Boyardee® pasta. To date, this work has resulted in 2 million fewer pounds of salt per year in the domestic food supply.

Over the past few years, several respected public health authorities, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the American Heart Association, have solidified their position on the importance of reducing sodium intake. Research released earlier this year by two different groups1 calculated the potential health and economic benefits of sodium reduction to the American public. Based upon those estimates it is projected that, if the food industry were to follow ConAgra Foods’ lead and reduce salt by 20 percent across product portfolios, U.S. medical costs might be reduced by as much as $4 billion to $10 billion annually.

The scope of the ConAgra Foods’ salt reduction is broad and diverse, including as many as 20 brands, 160 product varieties (formulas), and all temperature categories in the supermarket. “ConAgra Foods has the ability to make an impact on sodium in a very broad way,” said Al Bolles, Ph.D., executive vice president, Research, Quality & Innovation, ConAgra Foods. “What that means is that we’ll need to use different techniques to keep or enhance the taste of all types of food in our portfolio, from Hunt’s® tomatoes to Marie Callender’s® convenient meals to Fleischmann’s® table spreads. This is a definite challenge—but one that is very worthwhile and one we are confident that we can meet.”

Importantly, ConAgra Foods’ pledge to reduce salt 20 percent by 2015 is only a snapshot of its work in this area, and only a portion of its overall work to make food more healthful. “We expect to continue to make food better, whether it’s through the inclusion of whole grains and other important nutrients, or reducing sodium, far beyond 2015,” said Bolles. “We recognize the critical nature of our role in good health, and we’ll continue to make positive contributions. Providing good nutrition is essential to consumer and company well-being and is part of our overall commitment to social responsibility.”

The company will track its work in sodium reduction and make it publicly available each year through the ConAgra Foods Corporate Social Responsibility report, published at www.conagrafoods.com.

ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America’s leading food companies, with brands in 97 percent of America’s households. Consumers find Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt’s, Marie Callender’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip and many other ConAgra Foods brands in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise, and club stores. ConAgra Foods also has a strong business-to-business presence, supplying potato, other vegetable, spice and grain products to a variety of well-known restaurants, foodservice operators and commercial customers. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.

1. Potential health benefits and medical cost savings from calorie, sodium, and saturated fat reductions in the American diet, American Journal of Health Promotion, July/Aug 2009. Potential societal savings from reduced sodium consumption in the U.S. adult population, American Journal of Health Promotion, Sept/Oct 2009.

Source: ConAgra Foods, Inc.

ConAgra Foods, Inc.
Teresa Paulsen, 402-240-5210
Vice President, Corporate Communication
teresa.paulsen@conagrafoods.com
www.conagrafoods.com