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Report Warns Against US Sodium Intake, What Will The FDA Do?

The Institute of Medicine released a report today detailed strategies to reduce sodium intake in the Americans' diets. The FDA is reviewing the recommendations.

salt shaker

Photo: Daniel Y. Go

On average, Americans consume over twice the amount of sodium daily that the Center for Disease Control recommends. 77% of this comes from processed foods.

Salt In The American Diet

According to the American Heart Association, Americans consume an average of 3,436mg of salt a day, over twice the recommended 1,500mg of daily salt intake to maintain ideal blood pressure.

77% of this salt intake is obtained from processed foods, and given the ubiquity of these foods in the American diet, these numbers aren’t so surprising.

The over-consumption of sodium leads to potentially fatal health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and hypertension.

An FDA Initiative To Limit Salt Content In Food Products?

So, when the Washington Post published an article earlier this week reporting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) planned to limit the amount of salt in processed and pre-prepared foods, the news was cause to celebrate among those concerned about the amount of sodium in the American diet.

According to the article, the FDA’s initiative would be launched within a year and would gradually reduce the salt content in processed foods over the course of 10 years to allow the American palate to adapt to lower levels of sodium.

That is, if it were true…the FDA promptly responded with a press release that flatly denied the Washington Post’s claims:

The FDA is not currently working on regulations nor has it made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time.

So, What WILL The FDA Do?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report today, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, that proposes initiatives similar to the steps outlined in the Washington Post article to reduce the amount of salt in the American diet.

The FDA seems to agree that the amount of sodium we consume is a problem, as announced in some vague plans to address the issues raised by the report:

Over the coming weeks, the FDA will more thoroughly review the recommendations 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.

On her Food Politics blog, Marion Nestle seems suspicious of the Washington Post article and subsequent denial by the FDA, raising the possibility of interference by the powerful salt industry.

Time will tell if the FDA does in fact take action to impose legal limits on sodium content in packaged foods. If they decide to go through with plans similar to those outline in the Post article, it would mark an unprecedented imposition of federal regulation on food products.

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Laura Bult

Laura Bult is a spring intern with Earth Eats and a senior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies, with minors in English Literature and Spanish.

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