updated 2/18/2008 3:57:05 PM ET 2008-02-18T20:57:05

The Campbell Soup Co.'s kid-oriented soups, which feature characters such as Dora the Explorer and Batman on the cans, are getting their second sodium reduction in three years, the company announced Monday.

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This time, the 12 soups for kids will have 480 milligrams per serving, which means the company can legally label them as healthy foods for the first time.

"Your kids can enjoy Dora the Explorer even more," said Douglas R. Conant, Campbell's president and chief executive, said in an interview. "They'll be down to heart-healthy levels."

For Camden-based Campbell's, high sodium levels have been a big health concern for decades for products that are otherwise generally healthy.

Two years ago, the company began using sea salt — where it comes from is kept secret — to reduce sodium in a number of its products. The sea salt is being used in a growing number of soups, as well as SpaghettiO's pasta. The company has also reduced sodium in V8 vegetable juice.

As more people become health conscious, lower-salt soups have become a big business for the world's largest soupmaker. In 2003, it sold $100 million worth of reduced-sodium soups. Now, Campbell's says, the lower-salt soups are bringing in $650 million a year in retail sales.

Initially, sodium levels in the kids' soups were brought down an average of 25 percent. This year, they'll be brought down another 20 percent.

The company also announced Monday that it is reformulating 36 ready-to-serve soups and giving them a new brand name: "Campbell's Select Harvest."

All the soups sold in cans and microwavable bowls currently labeled "Campbell's Select" will be called "Campbell's Select Harvest." The more upscale soups sold in boxes under that label will not be part of the new line.

While they will be lower in sodium, the "Campbell's Select Harvest" soups cannot be labeled as healthy because they will not meet other federal government criteria for areas such as fat and cholesterol.

In all, 48 Campbell's soups are getting makeovers this year, bring to 85 the total number soup varieties that have had their sodium reduced since 2006.

Some of the soups being reformulated this year will ship as early as June. All of them are to be widely available by fall, Conant said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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