Published: Sun, June 19, 2016
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Bland food is bad, but so is America's sodium intake

Bland food is bad, but so is America's sodium intake

Some companies are already on board.

This is a first for the United States government - they have never recommended such limits. While the amount of sodium content appears on existing food labels, the government has never proposed or set specific levels. The agency has requested comments pertaining to the food categories and two-year salt reduction goals by August 31, 2016.

And so, industry will submit, and in two years, consumers will start to taste a difference in their crackers, their breads their favorite soups and canned goods.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that many people may not be conscious of how much sodium they are eating until they have a heart attack or stroke. He said, "Our great hope is that this will initiate a very serious national dialogue".

Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily or 3,400 milligrams. "The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease".

The guidelines are long-delayed.

FDA has issued draft guidance for public comment that provides voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry. "The FDA is encouraged to issue any voluntary or mandatory guidance based upon an updated DRI report". These guidelines are non-binding, meaning that they aren't hard and fast rules - and food companies could ignore them. Currently, Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg of salt per day, and the FDA wants that figure sliced down to about 2,300 mg per day.

The Obama administration is all about lower salt.

Frieden notes that while there has been a noticeable decline in the US mortality rate related to heart disease and stroke in recent years, the downward trend has slowed down. While some companies may resist these changes, it's likely that others will seek to capitalize by marketing their lower sodium products.

And in most cases, that's not counting salt that we might add to our food ourselves. Wal-Mart, ConAgra Foods, Nestle and Subway restaurants say they have achieved major sodium reductions in their products. "The agency is detailing sodium content levels for well over a hundred food categories, from feta cheese to salad dressing". "This evaluation should include research that indicates health risks for people who consume too much sodium as well as health risks from consuming too little sodium". But that might not be enough since sodium chloride is also used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and improve shelf-life. The sodium values are listed in milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of the food. No matter what the guidelines are from the Food and Drug Administration, we are ultimately responsibility for our own health!

While cutting salt is good for one's health, some argue the guidelines constitute government overreach.

That hasn't stopped the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) from applauding the fed's move, and calling for even more draconian action.

"It's disappointing that the FDA is only proposing targets and not formal limits, but in this political climate with a Republican Congress and such massive industry opposition, we're gratified that the administration is at least coming out with voluntary targets", Jacobson said.

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