The food industry has countered that no evidence exists linking low levels of salt consumption to better health. Many food companies have been quietly attempting to reduce sodium content in their processed foods in recent years but remain concerned that consumers will not buy such products.
In an interview with the Associated Press this week, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said she hoped to have voluntary standards for the amounts of salt food companies and restaurant add to their products “relatively soon,” but did not lay out more exact timetable. The agency had said last year it hoped to have such guidelines published in 2014.
It is estimated Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day, much more than the 2,300 mg per day the Dietary Guidelines of America recommends. For people over the age of 50, African-Americans and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the guidelines recommend 1,500 milligrams a day, a level the American Heart Association recommends for everyone.
Health advocates long have warned of the health dangers involving the overconsumption of sodium. Such warnings were given even greater credence after the release of an Institute of Medicine report in April 2010 that called on the FDA to impose mandatory limits on the amount of sodium that could be allowed to be added to food sold to the public.
Since the release of the IOM report, the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates more than 400,000 people died prematurely from health problems associated with excess sodium intake. “Reducing sodium consumption by half would save an estimated 100,000 lives per year. That in turn would reduce medical care and other costs by roughly $1 trillion over 10 years,” the center on its website, looking at worldwide costs.
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