CDC targets processed meat in new report

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — Nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium every day, with more than 40 percent of sodium intake coming from 10 types of food, according to a report released Feb. 7 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most common sources of sodium were bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta mixed dishes, meat mixed dishes, and savory snacks. For most of the categories, more than 70 percent of the sodium consumed came from foods obtained at a store, while for pizza and poultry, 51 percent and 27 percent, respectively, came from foods obtained at fast-food/pizza restaurants, the CDC said.

The study was based on interviews of 7,227 participants aged 2 or older as part of the 2007-08 What We Eat in America (WWEIA), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The CDC found mean daily sodium consumption was 3,266 mg, excluding salt added at the table. The amount was well above the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations of less than 2,300 mg for some Americans and 1,500 mg for specific groups, including non-Hispanic blacks, persons older than 51 and persons with hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

Although bread and rolls do not necessarily contain more sodium than many of the other foods, people tend to eat a lot of them, and according to the CDC, bread and rolls account for 7.4 percent of the salt that the average American eats in a day. Next on the list: cold cuts and cured meats, at 5.1 percent; pizza, 4.9 percent; fresh and processed poultry, 4.5 percent; soups, 4.3 percent; fast-food hamburgers and sandwiches, 4 percent; cheese, 3.8 percent; pasta mixed dishes, 3.3 percent; meat mixed dishes, 3.2 percent; and savory snacks, 3.1 percent.

Of the participants in the study, nearly 80 percent said they ate bread or rolls during one of the two 24-hour dietary recall days, which compared with 56 percent who said they ate cheese and 22 percent who said they ate mixed meat dishes.

The CDC noted a little more than 65 percent of the sodium consumed came from foods obtained from a store, while restaurants were the source of about 25 percent of the sodium consumed. The remaining 10 percent was from specific sources. In children ages 2 to 19, approximately 8 percent of sodium consumed came from foods obtained from school cafeterias or child care centers.

While reducing daily sodium consumption is difficult, the CDC said people may lower intake by eating a diet rich in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and by limiting processed foods with added sodium. The agency also said it supports recommendations for food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the amount of sodium added to foods.

“We’re encouraged that some food manufacturers are already taking steps to reduce sodium,” said Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC. “Kraft Foods has committed to an average 10 percent reduction of sodium in their products over a two-year period, and dozens of companies have joined a national initiative to reduce sodium. The leading supplier of cheese for pizza, Leprino Foods, is actively working on providing customers and consumers with healthier options. We are confident that more manufacturers will do the same.”

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