Reduce excess salt in food

In an effort to reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke, the American Medical Association (AMA) testified to the Food and Drug Administration urging immediate action to reduce excess salt in food. The AMA asked the FDA to set strict limits on salt in processed foods and work to better educate the public on the benefits of a low-sodium diet.

AMA Vice President for Science, Quality, and Public Health Stephen Havas, MD, MPH, MS, said, “The need for immediate action is clear. The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll ? the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year.”

“Excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke,” said Dr. Havas. “Research shows most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods. Reducing the salt in our diets by 50 percent over the next ten years could save at least 150,000 lives each year.”

“Americans don’t consume large amounts of salt because they request it, but often do so unknowingly because manufacturers and restaurants put it in food,” said Dr. Havas. “The FDA has an opportunity to inform the public of the hazards of salt through better labeling and provide increased incentives for the industry to reduce the amount of salt added to food.”

“The U.S. should follow the lead of countries such as Finland and the U.K. who have taken action on salt, and seen promising results,” said Dr. Havas.

Because of the enormous health consequences attributed to excess salt consumption in the U.S., the AMA recommends the following:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoke the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status of salt and develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

The FDA and manufacturers work toward a minimum of a 50 percent reduction in the amount of sodium in processed foods, fast food products and restaurant meals over the next decade.

Interested stakeholders establish partnerships to educate consumers about the benefits of long-term, moderate reductions in sodium intake.

The FDA improve labeling to assist consumers in understanding the amount of sodium contained in processed food products and develop label markings and warnings for foods high in sodium.

“The AMA is confident the implementation of these recommendations would reduce sodium intake, result in a better educated consumer, and eventually lower the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in this country, saving countless lives,” said Dr. Havas.

Source: American Medical Association, USA

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