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IOM: FDA Should Regulate Salt Content in Food

Report urges gradual reductions in allowable content to reduce risk of heart disease, stroke

WEDNESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- New federal standards are needed to regulate the amount of salt that food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service companies can add to their products, according to an Institute of Medicine report -- Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States -- published April 21 by the National Academies Press.

Committee chair, Jane E. Henney, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and colleagues cited statistics showing that average daily sodium consumption in the United States exceeds 3,400 mg (equivalent to about 1.5 teaspoons of salt) per person, which is far in excess of the recommended maximum daily intake of 2,300 mg for adults and the recommended adequate daily intake of 1,500 mg. The authors write that the vast majority of people's sodium intake comes from salt that companies add to prepared meals and processed foods.

The authors further state that regulatory action is needed because public education campaigns about the hazards of excess salt, and voluntary sodium cutting efforts by the food industry, have failed to decrease overall sodium intake. They urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to gradually step down the maximum amount of salt that can be added to foods, beverages, and meals through a series of incremental reductions which would eventually lower the amount of salt in the average American diet to a level that is not associated with an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke, and also ensure that food remains flavorful to consumers.

"For 40 years we have known about the relationship between sodium and the development of hypertension and other life threatening diseases, but we have had virtually no success in cutting back the salt in our diets," Henney said in a statement. "This report outlines strategies that will enable all of us to effectively lower our sodium consumption to healthy levels. The best way to accomplish this is to provide companies the level playing field they need so they are able to work across the board to reduce salt in the food supply."

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