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FDA Urges: Lose That Salt Shaker

04/28/2010
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The FDA announced that it is planning to help American’s reduce their sodium intake by regulating the salt in processed foods. The effort culminates after a long term campaign by health organizations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the National Academies of Sciences. The regulations would be launched this year, but officials have not yet set salt limits for foods. The American Medical Association has said that if salt in processed and restaurant foods were cut in half over 10 years, ultimately 150,000 lives a year could be saved.

Since 2005, dietary guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. People with hypertension, African Americans, middle-aged and elderly people, almost half of the population, are advised to consume no more than 1,500 mg per day. Getting more than this leads to increase risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney diseases. U.S. researchers at the Institute of Medicine say they are working with the food industry and the FDA to cut salt intake by nearly 10 percent which could prevent hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes over several decades and save the U.S. government $32 billion in healthcare costs.

Processed foods and restaurant foods contribute to almost 80 percent of sodium in the diet according to a 32-page report by Dr. Stephen Havas of the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and a leading sodium expert. Thousands of processed foods such as frozen dinners, soups, frozen pizzas, cheeses, salad dressings, canned vegetables and beans, and pasta sauces contain between 500-3,400 mg of sodium per package.

The FDA says there is no longer a debate over whether salt is dangerous to your health and are currently looking into regulating not only processed foods in grocery stores. Health officials also want the FDA to require restaurants to disclose sodium and other nutrients on menus. Currently, only foods in stores are required to list their sodium contents on packaging, and restaurants are not held to those standards.

Even though major food makers have started reducing sodium contents in recent years on their own, such as PepsiCo, which owns Pepsi, Frito-Lay and Quaker brands, food manufacturers are fearful of a backlash from consumers who will think their foods don’t taste as good. But specialists say people do gradually get used to the taste of less sodium. “The best way to control you sodium intake is to stay away from processed foods and restaurants foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables,” says officials at CSPI.

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