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FDA to Gradually Reduce Amount of Salt in Food Supply

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. 

  • The FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market.
  • Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption.  

Morton Satin, director for technical and regulatory affairs at the Salt Institute, which represents salt producers, said regulation would be a disaster for the public.  

"The science regarding sodium is unclear and that consumption does not necessarily lead to health problems.  If you consume a lot of salt, you also get rid of a lot of salt -- it doesn't mean it's an excess.  I want to make sure they're basing this on everything that is in the scientific literature, so we don't end up being guinea pigs because someone thinks they're doing something good," he said. 

Reducing salt across the food supply will be a massive and technically challenging project, says the Washington Post: 

  • Although many artificial sweeteners have been discovered, there is no salt substitute.
  • Humans have an innate taste for salt, which is needed for some basic biological functions.
  • But beyond flavor, salt is also used as a preservative to inhibit microbial growth; it gives texture and structure to certain foods; and it helps leaven and brown baked goods.  

Source: Lyndsey Layton, "FDA plans to limit amount of salt allowed in processed foods for health reasons," Washington Post, April 20, 2010. 

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