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Experts Urge FDA to Mandate Salt Reduction

Institute of Medicine Asks for New Standards for Salt Content of Food Sold in Stores and Restaurants
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FDA Response

In a news release, the FDA says it plans to ''more thoroughly review the recommendation of the IOM report and build plans for how the FDA can continue to work with other federal agencies, public health and consumer groups, and the food industry to support the reduction of sodium levels in the food supply."

''The FDA is not currently working on regulations nor have they made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time," according to the statement, in an attempt to correct some news reports that the FDA regulation effort had begun.

At a news conference, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog organization, called the recommendations ''groundbreaking."

''This is not something Americans can fix by throwing out your salt shaker," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who supports the recommendations.

She predicts the public will embrace regulations reducing salt intake, much as they did the food label information on calories and other nutrition facts.

Industry Comment

Roman offers another criticism, claiming that the research on the benefits of salt reduction has focused too much on the effect of lowering blood pressure and not on the ''big picture'' outcome of salt levels on health and mortality.

''Should the federal government regulate consumption of very low levels of salt, they are effectively compelling the entire population to take part in the largest clinical trial ever carried out, without their knowledge or consent," she says.

''The FDA would do a better service to the public if they promoted a diet with more fruits and vegetables rather than focusing on a single magic bullet that the scientific evidence does not support."

But some food producers are attempting to cut salt content in their products. For instance, ConAgra Foods announced in October 2009 a pledge to reduce salt across its offering of food products by 20% by 2015. The Omaha-based food manufacturer says it removed more than 2 million pounds of salt from its products from 2006 to 2009.

What Consumers Can Do to Reduce Salt

The recommendations are welcome, according to Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "For 40 years, we have known the correlation between salt intake and its negative effects on the body, but it has been an almost impossible goal for Americans to reduce their salt intake to only what is considered adequate."

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