The firm said it will continue to look at ways of cutting down salt, and said it has already managed to remove up to 20 per cent from many of its popular lines. It is working on a proprietary sodium technology that can cut 30 per cent of sodium in popcorn. Salt is a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, such as the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high. Numerous scientists are convinced that high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) - a disease that causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe. ConAgra's news comes at a poignant time. Yesterday FoodNavigator-USA reported on a meta-analysis study in the Lancet Chronic Diseases Series, which revealed that reducing salt intake around the world by 15 per cent could prevent almost nine million deaths between 2006 and 2015 in 23 low- and middle-income countries. Exact details of what the firm has used as a replacement to sodium in its range of foods - which includes Kid Cuisine, Chef Boyardee and Marie Cellender - have not yet been released. Dr Al Bolles, executive vice president, research, quality and innovation, said: "Over the past several years, we have focused our efforts on improving the nutritional profile of many of our foods. This focus enabled us to reduce sodium by 15 per cent 20 per cent without compromising the great taste of the product." ConAgra is investing in new technologies which it says it can reduce sodium even further. It has already developed a method to reduce sodium in its microwave popcorn. Bolles added: "We are now refining that breakthrough ingredient and developing others so that we can continue to meet consumer demand for great-tasting, lower sodium foods." The firm announced yesterday that diluted earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations for its fiscal 2008 second quarter will be higher than planned. Previously the company had commented that it expected fiscal 2008 second-quarter diluted EPS from continuing operations to be in line with last year's amounts. The higher EPS is attributed better than expected performance in its trading and merchandising segment and its food and ingredients arm. The company has not yet finalized the details of the quarter's performance, and will do so later this month. Last month health organizations called for stricter regulations on salt and sodium content in food They wanted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen labeling and to change salt's current status from "generally recognised as safe" (GRAS) to being controlled as a food additive.