The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this past week issued “long-awaited proposed guidelines targeting packaged foods and restaurant meals that contain the bulk of American’s daily sodium intake,” a voluntary approach that is part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort “to push the food industry toward reducing the amount of ingredients such as sugar and some fats in an effort to improve consumer health and reduce medical costs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
The story says that “the FDA wants to cut individual daily salt intake to 2,300 milligrams over the next decade from a current average of about 3,400 milligrams. It is targeting 150 categories of food, including soups, deli meats, bakery products, snacks and pizza, and officials said consumers have struggled to reduce their intake because most of it is added before it reaches the table … The voluntary salt targets are to be phased-in. The rules as currently proposed give manufacturers two years to begin cutting sodium levels in products, and up to 10 years to make further cuts. The longer time period is intended to recognize the time it takes to develop new foods products, the FDA said.”
According to the Journal, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group, estimated that it would take six to 18 months and cost $500,000 to $700,000 to reformulate a product with less salt to meet the guidelines, assuming alternatives were available.”
Meanwhile, in a related story, the Gothamist reports that a New York State appeals court has lifted an injunction that prevented the New York City Board of Health from enforcing a sodium labeling law.
The story says that beginning next Monday (June 6), “any chain restaurant in New York City that operates 15 or more locations in the United States is subject to the law, which requires them to mark dishes that exceed the Board’s recommendation for daily sodium intake with an icon of a salt shaker inside a triangular warning sign.”
Unfortunately, the food industry has brought the need for such guidelines on itself, by so substantially – and unnecessarily – boosting the sodium content of countless products in the name of either taste-enhancing or improving shelf (and pantry) life.
I happen to be uncommonly sensitive to salt in food. I do nearly all the cooking in my house, and only very rarely do I add any salt to anything. And there are a great many places (including nearly every fast food chain) that I refuse to patronize because of their salt use practices.
Among other things, too much salt in one’s food can contribute to high blood pressure, water retention and, not by chance, weight gain.
In reporting on the new FDA proposed guidelines, The New York Times noted that Americans eat almost 50 percent more sodium than what most experts recommend. Regarding its link to high pressure, “a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” The Times quoted the FDA as saying “one in three Americans have high blood pressure; For African-Americans, it is one in two.”
The FDA said Americans eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, well above the 2,300 recommended. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), a decrease in sodium intake by as little as 400 milligrams a day could prevent 32,000 heart attacks and 20,000 strokes annually.
While there has been some scientific controversy over how much to reduce sodium, scientists at the FDA said the health advantages are beyond dispute.