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Lowering Salt in Your Diet

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Q. Are salt substitutes safe?

A. Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, which could be harmful to people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.  Check with your doctor before using salt substitutes.

Q. What is FDA's role in regulating salt?

A.  

  • Salt is regulated by FDA as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) ingredient. A GRAS substance is one that has a long history of safe, common use in foods, or that is determined to be safe based on proven science. These substances need not be approved by FDA prior to being used.
  • FDA requires that sodium content be stated on food labels. FDA has implemented several labeling requirements related to sodium content of foods.
  • FDA sets criteria for nutrient-content claims that manufacturers make about foods. Examples are "low sodium" and "reduced in sodium".
  • FDA doesn't have regulatory authority to require manufacturers to change the amounts of salt in processed foods at this time, but the agency is conducting research in this area. In 2007, the Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a Citizen's Petition to FDA requesting that the agency make changes to the regulatory status of salt, including requiring limits on the amount of salt in processed food. In November 2007, FDA held a public hearing in College Park, Md., on the agency's policies regarding salt in food, and solicited comments from the public about future regulatory approaches.

Q. What was the outcome of FDA's public hearing on salt?
A. The public comment period ended in August 2008, and the agency is reviewing comments. FDA is also a sponsor of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on reducing sodium intake, which is due out in 2010. IOM has convened a committee to review and make recommendations about various ways to reduce salt intake. The strategies under consideration include actions by food manufacturers, by public health professionals and consumer educators, and at the government level, such as special initiatives and regulatory options.

 

For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/default.htm).   

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