Humans can’t live without salt, but most Americans could do with far less of it, says the latest issue of Time magazine.

As local retailers know, the regulators have prepared foods firmly in their sights. It costs the US $24 billion a year in health care costs and 150,000 lives. These statistics, as we know from efforts to stamp out tobacco use, will be hammered into the public arena again and again. (Surely that $24 billion includes lots of jobs in hospitals and medical centres and lots of profits for big pharmaceutical companies!)

Time helpfully note that salt “often lurks where you don’t expect it. A dollop of cottage cheese, for instance, can pack twice as much of the mineral as a palmful of salted peanuts.”

And this takes us back to the discussion about portion sizes and disclosure. How big is your dollop?

Talking about disclosure, I am looking at a Sainsbury’s museli packet that invites consumers to recycle the cardboard and simultaneously claims to have much less salt than consumers (and the regulators) would expect.

On the side of the box are two tables of evidence to support its “better-for-you” claim and listing the ingredients. In 100g there is 0.05g of salt. In a 50g serving, there is 0.15g. An amazing feat of science or simply a proof reading mistake?

The debate over food is going to be driven by statistics and local shopkeepers are going to have to be adept at marketing to avoid being made into scapegoats. Take a leaf out of Sainsbury’s book and put the emphasis on your strengths – local sourcing, having a book for shoppers to ask for products they want, friendly service and so on. At the same time, in selling top up and treat foods, you will need to learn the vocabulary of “better-for-you” foods.