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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

Industry Comment continued...

''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."

The lowered intake of 1,500 milligrams, considered adequate by the Institute of Medicine, coupled with FDA regulation might be the only way to reduce chronic illness linked with high salt, she says.  

Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a dietitian in Sacramento, Calif., also favors the IOM recommendation. "It's encouraging to see the IOM addressing sodium."

The sodium issue, she predicts, will be as ''hot'' as the effort to reduce unhealthy trans fat from foods.

Meanwhile, as the FDA ponders the recommendations, consumers can do much to lower salt on their own, Gazzaniga-Moloo says. Her tips:

  • Buy lower-sodium options when you can.
  • Eat food in the most natural state possible.
  • Comparison shop among the same products for lower sodium content.
  • Cut back on processed foods in particular. ''Three-quarters of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods," she says.

Some examples of sodium content per customary serving size, according to the IOM report, are:

  • beef hot dog: 446 milligrams
  • salami: 748 milligrams
  • ham luncheon meat: 627 milligrams
  • pepperoni pizza: 935 milligrams
  • chicken noodle soup: 982 milligrams



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