Report urges FDA to limit salt in food
We're consuming too much sodium, and it's contributing to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and higher health care costs.
You may not keep a saltshaker on the table, but if your diet consists of food from a box, a can or a bag, chances are you're getting more sodium in your diet than is healthy. A medical group now wants the Food and Drug Administration to set limits on salt in processed food.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, said the FDA in fact has plans to do that. “The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products,” the Post said.
Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium in their food, far exceeding public health recommendations. Consuming too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, a serious health condition that is avoidable and can lead to a variety of diseases. Analysts estimate that population-wide reductions in sodium could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually. While numerous stakeholders have initiated voluntary efforts to reduce sodium consumption in the United States during the past 40 years, they have not succeeded.
Without major change, the report warns, hypertension, or high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease rates will continue to rise, and consumers will pay the price for inaction.
In 2008, Congress asked the institute to recommend strategies for reducing sodium intake to levels recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (.pdf file). The institute concluded that reducing sodium content in food requires new government standards for the acceptable level of sodium.
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"Manufacturers and restaurants need to meet these standards so that all sources in the food supply are involved," the report said. "The goal is to slowly, over time, reduce the sodium content of the food supply in a way that goes unnoticed by most consumers as individuals' taste sensors adjust to the lower levels of sodium."
Processed food normally has high amounts of sodium to provide flavor to what might ordinarily be rather bland-tasting food. Also, food manufacturers often increase salt in some diet or low-calorie products to make up for the lack of natural taste.
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The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans call for limiting sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 mg per day for individuals 2 or more years of age. That amounts to about one teaspoon of salt per day.
In reality, the institute says, the average person consumes about 50% more than that -- more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day.
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