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FDA accused of 'vilifying' salt with new guidelines

16. Salty Snacking -- The more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure rises -- putting you at major risk of stroke, kidney failure and heart attack.
16. Salty Snacking -- The more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure rises -- putting you at major risk of stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. (iStock/donald_gruener)

The Food and Drug Administration is getting a heavy dose of backlash from the salt industry after newly released sodium guidelines call for a reduction in salt content.

The typical American eats about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, according to the FDA, most of which is already in the food before purchasing.

The FDA is drafting voluntary guidelines that encourage food manufactures to limit salt in all of their products.

The FDA would like to reduce consumption to 3,000 milligrams per day within two years, and to 2,300 over the next decade.

The guidelines, although not legally binding, are ruffling feathers.

“Your favorite foods will not taste the same,” warned Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute. “The government is trying to change virtually every recipe in the United States.”

The North American Meat Institute said the FDA is trying to 'vilify' salt.

Advocates say the new guidelines would provide tremendous health benefits, including lower blood pressure.

"For years, consumers have been warned about the link between excess sodium in the diet and high blood pressure and advised to eat less salt,” Steven Houser, president of the American Heart Association, said in comments to the FDA.

“But Americans continue to consume sodium in amounts that far exceed the recommended daily limits, in large part because the amount of sodium in the food supply remains high, and consumers are often unaware of the foods that contribute the most sodium in the American diet,” he added. 

The Salt Institute points to studies showing the benefits of salt.

“Salt is an essential nutrient to keep the body running,” said Beth Johnson, who represents the Sodium Coalition. “We need salt. The question is how much is appropriate to maintain a healthy diet without causing problems.”

Salt is regulated by FDA as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) ingredient. A GRAS substance is one that has a long history of safe, common use in foods, or that is determined to be safe, for the intended use, based on proven science. These substances need not be approved by FDA prior to being used.

Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride and can be used by individuals to replace salt in their diet. There are no known undesirable effects in healthy people who consume a lot of potassium; however, potassium could be harmful to people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. 


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