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"We simply eat too much salt," said Sonia Angell, MD, director of the New York City Health Department's cardiovascular disease reduction program. In the wake of efforts to cut smoking, the city has embarked on a program to phase excess salt out of restaurant and packaged foods.

"We're at the point where we have the opportunity to save lives by reducing sodium," Angell says.

Alderman points to previous public health efforts that fell flat despite good intentions. Recommendations urging women to take hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms had to be rescinded after use by millions of women revealed an increased risk of breast cancer and other medical disorders.

"I think before we go on public health campaigns we need solid scientific evidence. Not hope, and not logic, but evidence," he says.

Still, efforts to gradually and steadily cut salt in packaged foods have won industry and government support and seem likely to proceed. The cuts are set to take place over 10 years.

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