F.D.A. should force salt reduction in foods: I.O.M.

by Meat&Poultry staff
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WASHINGTON — A call was made by the Institute of Medicine (I.O.M.) on April 20 to force food processors to gradually cut the salt some say are “hidden inside their products” and it will be considered by the Food and Drug Administration, the agency said. But don't expect less-salty soups, pizzas or pastas any time soon, according to The Associated Press.

Each day, Americans consume approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, more than double what they need for good health and high enough to increase risk of high blood pressure, strokes and other problems. Most of that sodium is inside common processed foods and restaurant meals, sources claim.

In recent years, major food processors have started reducing sodium, but they have argued they don't have tasty ways to replace major cuts of sodium— and they fear consumer backlash as the taste changes.

On April 20, the I.O.M. charged the food industry hasn't done enough to voluntarily cut back. Similar to earlier calls made by the American Medical Association (A.M.A.) and other health groups, the I.O.M. urged government to set maximum sodium levels for different foods in a stepped rollback — so eventually, the average consumption would drop by about half a teaspoon. A gradual reduction would let people adjust to the change in flavor, they reasoned.

Dr. Jane E. Henney of the University of Cincinnati, a former F.D.A. commissioner who headed the I.O.M.'s study, said, "We think it's important and imperative to get started, but we think this will probably take years to accomplish."

F.D.A. spokeswoman Meghan Scott said the agency hasn't decided whether to regulate sodium levels, but added "no options are off the table.” Much would have to be done before a decision is made to regulate sodium levels, she said.

The I.O.M. is an independent agency chartered by Congress to advise the federal government and it is the most recent in a string of health groups to pressure the F.D.A. in recent years to reduce salt.

If the salt in processed and restaurant food were cut in half over 10 years, ultimately 150,000 lives a year could be saved, the A.M.A. has said.

According to government guidelines, 2,300 milligrams of sodium should be the maximum daily intake. But the I.O.M. argues people need just 1,500 mg a day, even less if they're more than 50 years old. At present, average sodium consumption is more than 3,400 mg.

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