The Food and Drug Administration wants to reduce salt consumption by Americans in an effort to cut morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease.
The unprecedented move would be implemented over a decade or more.
It would begin by quantifying salt content in processed foods and progress to the establishment of salt limits in various food categories. Subsequently, these would be ratcheted down over years so that consumers wouldn’t take notice.
At the moment, FDA classifies salt as “generally recognized as safe,” meaning that food producers can add as much as they want. All they have to do is report salt content on nutrition labels.
Americans’ salt consumption has risen steadily for 3 decades as they consume more processed foods and eat out more frequently. Most of us consume twice as much as the government’s daily recommended limit.
Scientists at Stanford and Columbia recently published a study showing that reducing salt intake by 3 grams per day could prevent tens of thousands of strokes and heart attacks per year.
The feds had heretofore tried to coax the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and educate consumers about its risk. However, a recently released report by the Institute of Medicine has found these approaches have failed.
The FDA’s challenge is that, “historically, consumers have found low-sodium products haven’t been of the quality that’s expected,” according to Todd Abraham, an SVP of research and nutrition at Kraft Foods.
Meanwhile, Morton Satin, who directs technical and regulatory affairs for the Salt Institute, a trade group representing salt producers, believes regulation “would be a disaster for the public.” He added that the scientific evidence linking salt consumption to cardiovascular disease is mixed and that salt intake is not necessarily associated with health problems.