Will the FDA Efforts to Limit Salt be Successful?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/26/2010 1:21 PM   :  129 comments   :  14,488 Views

Salt is an acquired taste and unfortunately too many of us have acquired it. Many people ask why there is so much sodium in restaurant foods and are learning that reducing salt intake is easier said than done.

Salt also known as sodium chloride has been used for generations in baked goods as a leavening and browning agent as well as assisting with product texture, structure and enhanced "mouth feel." It has seen increased use over the decades by food manufactures that utilize it as a cost effective option to extend product shelf life due to its preservative properties. One reason we may have seen more high fructose corn syrup used in shelf stable products such as breads and crackers over the years could be that it hides the unfavorable salty taste created by increased sodium-based additives used to reduce product waste from spoilage. The longer a product can safely sit on a shelf, the less loss for the company.

Last week it was reported that the FDA will begin working with the food industry and health experts to reduce processed sodium content in packaged foods over the next ten years. Here is why this may be a positive step forward.

Food Industry Focus - It is great that the first step in this salt reduction process focuses on changes from the food companies and not from restricting product availability or consumer choice. This is especially true since estimates suggest 77% or more of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods compared to the 12% sodium that is naturally occurring. Salt is "generally recognized as safe" under federal standards so manufactures are not limited regarding how much they can use in food production. They are only regulated to accurately report the amount of sodium per serving on nutrition labels. The food industry has been awaiting federal initiatives so Conagra, Pepsico, Kraft Foods, General Mills, and Sara Lee recently announced voluntary sodium reduction plans for their products.

FDA Backed Accountability - The Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned the FDA back in the early 1980's to regulate sodium content in foods. Although the CSPI has also shared apprehension about nearly 90 other food related issues over the years, they have been the push behind the sodium concerns in processed foods for years. In 2005, CSPI urged Congress to create a new FDA division to encourage food companies to reduce their salt content. The FDA regulates the majority of processed foods but year after year kicks the can down the road on this issue by pushing for voluntary reduction from the food industry without enforceable government backing. Perhaps with the potential of creating legal limits related to salt allowances, voluntary efforts from industry will be extremely cooperative this time around.

Improved Health Benefits with Limited Increased Efforts - The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends we consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. For specific population groups such as those with hypertension, blacks, the middle-aged, and older adults, the recommendation is to limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day while also consuming 4,700 mg of potassium per day. The correlation between salt intake and blood pressure are direct and the higher a person's blood pressure the higher the risks of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease. If manufactures reduce sodium content in processed foods, sodium content in diets will come down as well especially in those that find processed foods difficult to remove from their diets. While the message of reducing processed food consumption will continue, small hidden reductions of sodium in processed foods will help improve health more quickly as new habits are learned.

Reducing sodium can reduce disease and improve health. If your favorite products are still available on store shelves, provide a great taste for a fair price, and provide less sodium, we all benefit. This is frequently called "stealth health" or creating change and health benefits with minimal consumer impact or reduction in choice. It is unclear how fast we will see changes on our store shelves but indications suggest it may be sooner than later.

What do you think - Will these FDA initiated voluntary steps work this time? Is a 10-year plan reasonable?


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Comments

  • 129
    I don't think its the governments job to parent us on what we should or shouldn't eat or do. Give them an inch, they'll take a mile and then some, next law they try and pass maybe something you don't agree with. - 8/3/2011   11:46:43 AM
  • QNBEEE
    128
    Did you ever go to Red Lobster! There whole menu is nothing but salt tasting,from the
    Baked Potato to the rest of the dinner. I ask for no salt ans they said the only thing they could do not to salt the Bake Potato. The rest is already pre made that way. YACK!! - 11/10/2010   8:51:21 PM
  • 127
    Its the governments job - 10/4/2010   8:40:12 AM
  • EARTHBLING
    126
    I believe some food manufacturers will voluntarily reduce sodium levels--but not many. Salt is useful to the food industry to blunt the taste of cheap poor quality ingredients, it is also useful profit enhancer for the meat and poultry industries by binding water in meats so it is heavier. I think the government is too slow in making meaningful policies to protect our health. - 5/1/2010   12:50:33 PM
  • 125
    I hope they are successful in this quest if more people knew how much sodium changes their bodies....many more people would be without high blood pressure which leads to a slew of other issues. Not to mention several other issues this can cause. So good luck I am rooting for them
    - 4/30/2010   1:07:05 PM
  • 124
    10 years is too long. Just look at all the people that have stopped using salt in their everyday use. I say the time is now, not over 10 years. I guess that is why I would rather make my meals at home than to go out just to eat all that salt. - 4/30/2010   10:14:08 AM
  • DOBIESIZE
    123
    Processed food manufacturers should be given the opportunity, if not a government incentive, to lower their sodium additives in food. Although, individuals need to make good food choices on their own as well. Avoiding processed foods should be top on of your list. If you need salt, seek out unrefined/unprocessed salt - easily found on the internet. We really need to stop eating "created food" from boxes...and start eating more natural foods - our bodies were made to utilize natural foods...not chemicals and preservatives. Buy from your local farmer if at all possible. - 4/29/2010   1:15:15 AM
  • 122
    you don't stop one day. little by little we shall over come. - 4/28/2010   11:00:50 PM
  • 121
    If manufactures would make healthy products without all the unnessesary additives (like salt) and keeped the products at a reasonable price people would buy them. It cost far less for people to buy unhealthy processed food than it does to buy fresh or organic food. The reason people in america are getting fatter is because they can't afford to eat healthy. The FDA can't change that, the food manufactures must give us healthy choices at reasonable prices. - 4/28/2010   10:36:36 PM
  • REBECKY44
    120
    The government is in our business too much now. I think it should be our own personal responsibity to chose how and what we eat. When we stop eating products and at the places that serve high sodium, those businesses will get the message. - 4/28/2010   10:35:33 PM
  • 119
    Lets try personal responsibility instead of Government control or pretty soon you will just get your daily government issued food ration. I and I alone am responsible for what I put into MY body. Let the government be in charge of the Highways and the military, not my fork. - 4/28/2010   10:19:45 PM
  • 118
    If the manufacturers don't reduce salt voluntarily the govt may need to step in. It is a national health problem which raises health costs for all of us.
    I would think that most manufacturers could take at least 10% or more of the sodium out of products without any one even noticing.
    I am one of the bad salt addicts. food just does not have much taste without it though I don't eat as much if it is low sodium so it might be a good thing.
    I just do not like most herbs or pepper so salt is my main seasoning though I try to cut back when I can.
    we do not eat out much at all but do used processed foods. - 4/28/2010   5:13:33 PM
  • 117
    I really don't think this is necessary for the govt to do - put the information out there and let folks make their own choices. - 4/28/2010   4:52:22 PM
  • 116
    Sales drives business - if consumers choose lower-sodium products, manufacturers will make more. If we continue to choose and consume high-sodium products, well, they will continue to make them. Since many consumers do not realize just how high the sodium is in most processed foods, I don't think companies will voluntarily reduce it. The FDA is reviewing LOWERING salt content, not eliminating it. Considering the benefits to public health, I would like to see FDA oversight on sodium levels. - 4/28/2010   10:58:56 AM
  • MRSROBYN
    115
    I'm just curious to everyone saying "no more government control!" What is it you think the FDA is there for? It's not like the major branches of the Federal Government are trying to steal your salt shaker...it's the FDA. This is the kind of things it was created for. What exactly is it that you think is the bigger matter they need to deal with? I think obesity and general health is their biggest concern.

    As for the salt regulation. Go for it. I don't really care either way. I don't add salt to anything (unless I'm baking a cake) and don't necessarily care for the taste all that much. If you want to add salt later when you are cooking it then go for it. It's not like your going to pop your hamburger helper open at the store to eat it...you can wait until you get home to add the salt. - 4/28/2010   9:36:57 AM
  • 114
    I hope it works! I am able to meet most of my nutrition goals every day, except the sodium... very frustrating that i am limiting other things, but i can't seem to get the sodium down - 4/28/2010   8:04:24 AM
  • 113
    I know it would be helpful for most people. However, I am a rare case and actually require extra salt in my diet. I do not like the taste or texture of salt in most foods, so I rely on these foods to help me get what I need to survive. I have a condition opposite of most folks, and without the salt I literally pass out and hit the floor with any kind of exercise whatsoever. For my sake, and those like me, I hope they do not force them to remove salt, but do hope they are required to give the truth on their packaging. I believe people need to make choices on their own given the facts about their food. I think the government should require companies to give all the factual nutritional information right on their packaging in an easy format to follow, but leave it at that. Don't force people to not be able to get the foods they want, or, in my case, need. - 4/28/2010   12:12:11 AM
  • 112
    I think it is funny when people complain about the government intrusion in thier lives when it comes to this issue. Without that intrusion do you really think that companies would even have nutritional information on the sides of their packaging? Do you think that companies would have worked so hard to remove trans fats from their products? Before the big trans fat removal campaign I had never even heard of them before and now I avoid them as much as possible. I think this effort will be helpful for everyone in the long run. Hopefully it won't take that 10 years, but any change in the right direction makes me happy.

    I work really hard to reduce my sodium, removing as many processed foods as possible, cooking fresh, not adding salt. One fun night out with my family at a restaurant and my hard work is out the door. My fingers, face, and feet are noticeably swollen the next day. I look forward to the day that I can make wise choices from a menu (when people finally have to publish FULL nutritional info, not just fat and calories) and not have to pay the next day. Right now there are just not that many choices available at restaurants for people who care about their health. - 4/27/2010   10:51:02 PM
  • 111
    I like salt. Scratch that - I LOVE salt. I don't like spicy flavors. Yes I'm fat. But I'm healthy, all of my lab work and vitals are excellent (other than that exercise induced asthma thing). I add salt to food if I think that it needs it and I will continue to do so. I will cook the way that I want to at home and will add salt when eating out if I want to. If the restaurants stop having salt shakers on the table I will bring my own. The government can kiss my big fat seat cushion. - 4/27/2010   10:44:25 PM
  • 110
    salt is my hardest thing to watch on the tracker ,this country needs a wake up call to what they are selling us. - 4/27/2010   10:34:24 PM
  • 109
    I sure hope so. Always thought there was too much sodium in foods. I have never added any additional salt, never even have it on the table. Use a very limited amount in my cooking. Why? Because with alI that I do to lower my intake I still go over the daily limit. I have kidney disfunction from Lupus so I really have to watch my sodium intake. - 4/27/2010   10:24:44 PM
  • 108
    I threw my salt shaker away many, many years ago. I certainly don't miss using it in my cooking....but when eating out, I can certainly tell when someone has used too much!

    The less salt I consume ~ the easier it is to maintain my fluid engorged legs. - 4/27/2010   10:18:33 PM
  • 107
    I try to eat as much clean food as possible.The only salt I use at home is celtic Sea salt. - 4/27/2010   10:04:01 PM
  • 106
    I don't put salt on my food and use little of it at home, so that is up to each person. - 4/27/2010   9:54:31 PM
  • 105
    It shouldn't take ten years to undo something that has been known to cause health problems for over ten years.We get far to many added ingredients in our foods, salt is only one of them. - 4/27/2010   9:50:53 PM
  • 104
    About ten years ago there was a TV special about salt. The one thing that stuck in my mind was that Campbell's lower sodium soups had MORE sodium than is recommended by the USDA per serving. And the regular soups are amazingly salty!
    I cook as salt free as possible for my husband, and it means more work, and fewer times to eat out, but it pays off in health benefits. - 4/27/2010   8:32:33 PM
  • 103
    Voluntary works! That gives the manufacturers time to change their process! And anything they can do because they want too will open up the flood gates of creativity! I need to have less salt in my diet and I appreciate the help! - 4/27/2010   5:41:10 PM
  • 102
    If the food industy really wanted they could get this done sooner than in ten years, stop crying and get with it already---its bestg for all of us---keep the salt shakers for the salt lovers handy. - 4/27/2010   5:15:21 PM
  • MARY_70
    101
    It would be nice to be able to go to a restaurant and eat w/out realizing that your dish had 2,000 mg of sodium in it which was completely unecessary. Grant it, most restaurants post their sodium information on websites and you can make choices, but these days there aren't many options out there that are not ridiculously high in sodium. - 4/27/2010   4:40:39 PM
  • 100
    I agree with Beth, how about eliminating processed food altogether. We certainly don't need it, in our diets. - 4/27/2010   4:13:45 PM
  • GSEAGO
    99
    Good!! To those that want more salt on their foods, that is what salt shakers are for. This is beneficial to those of us who want to help cut our sodium intake. - 4/27/2010   3:56:03 PM
  • 98
    Congratulations to the food companies for taking a healthy initiative. I hope it works.

    While I generally don't like to see much government intervention in people's health choices, when government money (ie your tax dollars) is going to aid in treatment of illnesses that can be in part alleviated by better choices in diet, I believe there is some room for government to be involved. Especially when food companies are willing to partner with government agencies. This is particularly true here in Canada, where a significant portion of our taxes paid goes to fund health care services. I'm not sure how or whether new health care legislation in the US will affect public costs. - 4/27/2010   3:53:26 PM
  • 97
    Although the government can control how much salt a processor uses, it can't control how much additional salt I put on my food. The government has way too much to be concerned with as it is. I am sad to see them wasting time, and our money, debating an issue that should be an individual responsibility. - 4/27/2010   3:03:36 PM
  • 96
    Too many people are ignorant of what constitutes healthy food! SparkPeople is working to make a dent; but unfortunately it's only a little dent, and, to a large degree, it is "preaching to the choir." To lower healthcare costs by helping people eat healthier diets should be an important objective that should be implemented ASAP! USDA and other governmental requirements should be brought to bear on our OUT OF CONTROL food industries which have sold us such an unhealthy bill of fare that it's KILLING US! Talk about homeland security: the threat is all around us! - 4/27/2010   2:48:24 PM
  • 95
    I wish them the best. We put far too much salt in all processed foods. - 4/27/2010   2:35:50 PM
  • 94
    I've thought for a long time that the best way to approach this would be to slowly reduce the salt content in processed foods. Didn't they take this approach in the UK? You can't take it all out at once (like in "low salt" products) because people don't like the taste. But if you slowly reduce it, then the changes are readily detected. - 4/27/2010   1:52:38 PM
  • 93
    In terms of public health, I think this is a great idea. I know a lot of us here are very aware of what we put in our bodies, but there are many many many individuals who don't. Who are either too lazy to care or are miseducated about proper nutrition. (Same goes with seatbelts - though i developed the habit of putting on my seatbelt before it become law, i know many people who didn't feel the need to wear it until they were threatened with the possibility of getting monetary fines. I've also been in countries where seatbelts laws weren't in place or enforced and tho the people KNEW it could save their lives, they still didn't wear them)

    I also think this will be good for those of us who do care. I try not to buy processed foods but that's not always possible for me (like boca burgers, i'm not usually home on weekends and get home late on most nights, so i wouldn't have time to make my own veggie patties)

    If anything, at least this plan/step brings more attention to the issue of all the unnecessary salt added to food. - 4/27/2010   12:58:46 PM
  • HOLLYLANDAN
    92
    It would be nice if they had a substitute for salt like they do for sugar.. - 4/27/2010   12:50:55 PM
  • JANDREWS390
    91
    i think education is a great option, and the fact that they are working with the companies, instead of telling them what to do, should prove more beneficial - 4/27/2010   12:14:59 PM
  • 90
    We believe that education would do the trick! If we had known what we know now that salt and the wrong fats would cause my DH to have a heart attack we think we would have made very different food choices when we were younger. So we believe that this should be a mandentory part of our childrens's education. - 4/27/2010   11:56:28 AM
  • 89
    Ten years is too long a time frame. And no, I don't expect the FDA's move to really work.

    What works is US using our buying power to, in effect, boycott high salt (and whatever else) products. If we buy the lower salt/no salt added products and eschew the high salt ones, then the food manufacturers get the message where it really counts - in their profit & loss. - 4/27/2010   11:54:20 AM
  • 88
    I don't like the government regulating everything! I also don't like the high sodium in canned foods. So I don't buy them!!! Why should government bureaucrats force companies to act a certain way? I love learning about good health and how I can make better choices. I don't like my choices being taken away. - 4/27/2010   11:39:02 AM
  • 87
    I do not like the government intrusion into business and restricting salt in foods will have no impact. have you ever been at the grocery store and looked people's carts? While the following may seem superficial, it is merely an observation - many people just don't care. They don't care about sodium, fat, calories, trans fats, saturated fats, etc. They care about their doritos not getting too far away from them. All the regulation in the world isn't going to make health a priority for them. If food manufacturer's want to voluntarily reduce the sodium in some products, let the free market decide. the people who care will buy the "healthier" version and forgo the other, but since most people who chose to eat healthy don't buy a lot of processed food, it won't matter. - 4/27/2010   11:30:44 AM
  • MOCHWR
    86
    I love the idea that manufacturers are reducing sodium. I think they need to replace the salt with flavored seasonings.
    I think it's a sad statement that the government has to step in because we don't take control of our own lives.
    I know consuming premade meals is sometimes necessary. I have done it and been there. I also know that even the most inept cook can make something that tastes better then the premade meals. - 4/27/2010   11:20:09 AM
  • 85
    While I would love to see less sodium in processed foods (which I don't buy very often anyway), I am so sick and tired of the government wanting to get their hands into every miniscule aspect of my life I could just heave. I don't believe salt to be an "addictive" as some have suggested. OMG, it isn't a narcotic!

    I don't believe that government intervention is "essential" and I don't believe this to be such a huge health emergency that the FDA or any other government agency needs to get involved.

    If this intrusion into people's daily lives doesn't stop soon, there won't be any freedoms left to preserve. - 4/27/2010   10:55:09 AM
  • 84
    Ever since I started making some of my own condiments and have cut WAY down on processed foods, I can't stand the taste of too much salt. People add WAY too much to their dishes, and don't even get me started on restaurant food. Cut down on it and you'll be suprised how little you need. - 4/27/2010   10:51:16 AM
  • 83
    Agree with many of the comments do we really need the government to tell us salt consumption is not good for us. Common Sense where have you gone. - 4/27/2010   10:47:07 AM
  • 82
    The United States has too much government regulation already!!! We are currently being told what we should be thinking... doing..... and wanting..... by an academic elite group of individuals that are against everything the the United States of America stands for.

    NO.... government regulation will not regulate my salt intake!

    What will they do next... come into my home and tell me what kind of bowel movements i should be having? - 4/27/2010   10:46:37 AM
  • 81
    While I don't like government interference, I don't like lobbyists either...so lump them together and common sense goes out the door literally.

    Do we need more regulatory laws that won't be funded and follwed. No.

    Thc capitalistic society has at its roots, the working theory that all will be honest, ethical, use supply side economics, and for those that cannot/will not follow these tenants, some regulations are put in place. Supposedly common sense is the most vital asset of capitalism.

    The problem in placing more laws/regulations is huge. Everything from higher costs to high taxation comes into play. Do I want less sodium everywhere..absolutely! Can I count on any regulations being put in place that will be FUNDED consistently to do this. NO.

    I'm tired of offending my neighbors across the pond and on the northern border with rhetoric and arrogance about how we, the US are so much better at health care and everything else when in fact we do have problems. Enough!

    So, no I don't want any more FDA interference. Current funding to enforce current regulations is sparse and has been for decades. The same is true for the mess we are in with financial institutions, immigration law and just about everything there is a law for.

    Until the government and lobbyists become a lot more transparent, I'll regulate myself, but thanks anyway.

    - 4/27/2010   10:26:12 AM
  • 80
    As most people don't have a clue as to how much sodium is in the foods they eat, I think that everyone should be made aware. Then as well informed individuals, we can make the chose. I think it would be wonderful if restaurants, food manufacturers, and fast food franchises would drastically reduce the sodium used in their products. The reccomended daily allowance is below 2400mg. Some foods have nearly that much in one serving. A can of soup has as much as 800mg, it is ridiculous. So, whether it is done voluntarily or by regulations, it needs to be done. - 4/27/2010   10:20:54 AM

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