Pinching the Salt

FDA proposes sodium reduction guidelines

The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. To most of us, that number doesn't mean much (to give you an idea, that's about as much sodium as found in a teaspoon and a half of table salt). But research recommends that we consume 2,300 milligrams or less of sodium per day, meaning we are consuming a third more than we should be. High consumption of sodium has been linked to hypertension, heart disease, stroke and death.

Yesterday, the FDA came out with a proposal that would suggest food manufacturers cut down on the amount of salt they use in the coming years, the Associated Press reports. The draft, which is open for comment from the public, provides two- and 10-year targets for sodium reduction, giving producers time to rejigger recipes and for diners to become accustomed to the taste of lower sodium levels.

The proposal marks the first time the FDA has taken a stance on sodium; however, it's only a suggested reduction, and the finalized version of these guidelines may not be in place for more than a year. Meanwhile, several large food producers including ConAgra, Nestlé and Walmart have independently made efforts to reduce the levels of sodium already in the foods they produce.

Michael Jacobson, the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, "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."

This is the second big step the FDA has taken lately toward a more healthy way of eating. The agency announced in May that it will redesign nutrition labels to highlight calories and serving size, as well as add a line for added sugar.