A lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration aims to place stricter standards on labeling of sodium in food products in response to increased health concerns.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group that acts as a watchdog organization to protect consumer health, is hoping to reduce consumption of salt that is found mainly in processed foods, according to Politico. The group petitioned the FDA to make the labeling of sodium on food packages more obvious in 2005, and sued the federal agency in October 2015 for what CSPI saw as a lackluster response to the petition.
“For more than 35 years, FDA has dragged its feet and refused to do anything to protect Americans from excess sodium in the food supply,” CSPI President Michael Jacobson said in October 2015, reports Politico. “The government’s inaction condemns hundreds of thousands of Americans to early deaths due to preventable strokes and heart attacks.”
CSPI agreed to give the FDA until June 1 to respond to the petition, and voluntary targets for sodium content in processed foods are expected to be released within the coming months as well. FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney said these targets have the potential for “major public health gains,” but salt producers and others in the food industry dispute the benefits of these regulations.
“We don’t think this is justified,” said Morton Satin, vice president of science and research at The Salt Institute, according to Politico. “What is the impact? We’re going to have salt replaced by a cocktail of chemicals. They can’t just take out salt. They have to make the food tasty.”
Advocates for the policy cite evidence showing that lowered salt intake correlates with decreased risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure as a reason to change the guidelines. A 2013 study by the University of California San Francisco found that reducing sodium intake to the current federal upper limit of 2,300 mg/day would save 500,000 to 850,000 lives over the next 10 years.