Americans need lessons on salt

The American Medical Association (AMA) in an effort to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, has passed new policies to help change the way Americans think about salt.

The AMA is urging the the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revoke the "generally recognized as safe" status of salt with the aim of reducing sodium intake throughout America.

AMA Board Member, cardiologist Dr. J. James Rohack, says they hope the recommendations will encourage food manufacturers and restaurants to modify their current practices of adding unhealthy amounts of sodium to their products.

Dr. Rohack says cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans and people who reduce their dietary sodium intake are taking an important step in preventing future health problems.

Research has shown that most Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is healthy, and an excess of sodium increases the risk of developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Apparently as much as 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Dr. Rohack says one cup of canned soup can contain more than 50 percent of the FDA recommended daily allowance, and a serving of lasagna in a restaurant can put a diner over their recommended daily sodium allowance in just one meal.

Such examples highlight the importance of a national reduction in the amount of sodium in processed and restaurant foods says Rohack.

The recommendations adopted today call on the FDA to revoke the "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status of salt and to develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

They also want discussion on ways to improve labeling to assist consumers in understanding the amount of sodium contained in processed food products and to develop label markings and warnings for foods high in sodium.

They suggest a minimum 50 percent reduction in the amount of sodium in processed foods, fast food products and restaurant meals to be achieved over the next decade.

They state that consumers need to be educated about the benefits of long-term, moderate reductions in sodium intake.

The AMA believes the implementation of the recommendations will reduce sodium intake, result in a better educated consumer, and eventually lower the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the U.S.

In response the Food Products Association (FPA) says salt is a food ingredient that is 'generally recognized as safe', and has been in use in food preparation for millennia for purposes of taste and food preservation and naturally occurs in many foods.

The FPA says many food companies are already working on ways to reformulate products or reduce the use of sodium in processed foods.

Although new techniques in canning and freezing have reduced the amount of sodium needed, sodium often plays an important role in food preservation, and there can be no compromising food safety simply to reduce a food product's sodium content says the FPA.

The FPA agrees that it is important for consumers to know how much sodium is in foods and that food packaging is clearly labelled.

A broad range of foods containing no sodium or low sodium, or with no added salt, are already widely available and along with the information contained on the Nutrition Facts panel and food labels the FPA says consumers are able to choose food products that are appropriate for their dietary needs.

The FPA says additional government requirements are not needed but better consumer education is.

The FPA is the largest trade association serving the food and beverage industry in the United States and worldwide.

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