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: Americans have a dangerous love affair with salt — FDA issues new guidelines

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Don’t pass the salt.

The Food and Drug Administration is concerned about America’s salt consumption. Excess sodium in the diet helps to raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In fact, research carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that 90% of the U.S. population still consume too much salt, despite the many health warnings.

Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, but the FDA said people should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, the CDC recommends; those aged 51 and over and African-Americans should limit that to 1,500mg. (A Big Mac from McDonalds 
MCD,
-1.28%

 has 1,010mg of sodium and Panera’s new white bread and pasta sandwich has1,650mg of sodium.)

On Wednesday, the FDA issued new guidance for restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the amount of sodium in their food to 3,000mg per day — still higher than the recommended daily allowance — over a 2.5-year period. “More than 70% of total sodium intake is from sodium added during food manufacturing and commercial-food preparation,” the FDA said.

“‘For far too long, much of the food industry has done nothing about this problem, despite knowing the risks posed by diets high in salt.’”


— Dr. Peter G. Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“The use of the word should in FDA guidances means that something is suggested or recommended, but not required,” the federal agency said. The reduction “should progress gradually to allow time for product reformulation,” it added. “Population-level sodium intake reduction should progress at a pace such that consumer preferences and expectations for saltiness in foods adjust.”

Dr. Peter G. Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog, welcomed the FDA’s new guidelines, but said more needs to be done by the food industry. He said excess sodium in the diet “raises blood pressure, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, and can lead to tens of thousands of early deaths and billions of dollars in health care costs per year. That must change.”

“For far too long, much of the food industry has done nothing about this problem, despite knowing the risks posed by diets high in salt,” he said. He called on the FDA to finalize its more ambitious, long-term 10-year targets for sodium reduction, and develop new, intermediate 6-year targets. “These targets remain voluntary and, if compliance is poor, mandatory standards should be considered.”

“The National Restaurant Association provided substantive comment and feedback during the FDA’s development of the Voluntary Sodium Reduction Guidance,” Laura Abshire, director of food and sustainability policy at the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. “While we look forward to reviewing the final guidance and are hopeful it incorporates our suggestions, the restaurant industry continues to provide options to address customers’ desires and health needs.”

The Food Industry Association was not immediately available for comment.

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