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Tuesday
Nov012011

FDA Should Cut the Salt, Public Health Group Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One public health group wants the federal government to skimp on the salt, in the name of helping Americans cut their risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

On Tuesday, the American Public Health Association (APHA) urged the Food and Drug Administration to begin regulating the amount of salt that winds up in processed foods. The group also said the FDA should remove or change salt’s status as a “Generally Recognized as Safe” ingredient, a designation that places few limits on the amount of sodium that can be added to foods.

“Reducing the amount of sodium added in the manufacturing and commercial preparation of food is a prudent and safe public health intervention, and the single most effective means of reducing the sodium intake of Americans,” the APHA said in a statement.

According to the FDA, the major culprits in salty American diets are processed and restaurant-prepared foods, which account for around 75 percent of Americans’ total salt intake.

Citing “strong, continuous, graded, consistent, independent” data linking high salt intake to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the APHA urged the FDA to reduce salt in the American diet by 75 percent over the next 10 years.

The APHA joins a growing chorus of groups such as the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Heart Association that say Americans should eat far less salt than they do, and even less than the amount currently recommended by the federal government.

In 2010, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines set the recommended daily level of sodium intake at 2,300 milligrams for the general population, and 1,500 milligrams for people older than age 50, African-Americans, and anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Many medical groups, including the APHA, say all Americans should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. That’s about the amount found in 1 cup of canned refried beans and a slice of white bread, or a quarter-pounder with cheese and a medium fries at McDonald’s.

The Salt Institute, an industry group representing salt companies, said that level of salt is too low and consuming such a low-sodium diet would negatively affect the health of all Americans.

Mortin Satin, vice president of science and research at the Salt Institute, said he disputes the evidence touted by medical groups that high salt intake has negative health consequences, noting that the human body actually relies on sodium to function.

“There are biological processes, physiological processes that respond when the body gets too little salt,” Satin said. “There’s a whole series of roles that salt has to play, it’s critical in the food system. You can’t just get rid of salt, you have to replace it.”

Satin said he doesn’t dispute the risks of high blood pressure, but noted that there are many ways in which Americans can reduce their blood pressure, such as getting more exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables.

In October, the Salt Institute accused the federal government of bias and of breaking federal law by disregarding scientific literature in its recommendations that Americans consume less sodium.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio