Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Will FDA Get Ready Plan To Cut Salt?

Common salt is a mineral substance composed primarily of sodium chloride. One teaspoon of salt (6 grams serving) contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. Sodium helps nerves and muscles to function correctly, and it is also involved in the regulation of water content (fluid balance).

While human body needs salt, consuming too much of it can raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other medical disorders.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that individuals should not consume more than 1500 - 2300 mg of sodium (3750–5750 mg of salt) per day depending on age. The American Heart Association also recommends that everyone eat no more than 1,500 mg a day.

Being used to add flavor to food, salt is also employed to increase shelf life, prevent the growth of bacteria, or improve texture and appearance. That makes it more difficult to remove from some products. As such, high content of salt is embedded in common processed foods and restaurant meals.

Undoubtedly, the current level of consumption is higher than it should be for health. Most Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily or about a third more than that recommended by the government.

It seems that a federal effort is needed to try preventing thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke, and the action is expected to come very soon. This means that food companies and restaurants could soon face government pressure to make their foods less salty.

Mandatory standards are actually preferred by health groups, but some experts thought voluntary guidelines are a good first step. There are, however, concerns that some companies might hesitate worrying that their competitors would not reduce sodium in their products. So they expected that FDA should start a process of mandatory limits, if that happens.

Actually, many food companies and retailers have already pushed to cut salt contents. For instance, Wal-Mart pledged to reduce sodium in many items by 25 percent by next year, and food giant ConAgra Foods says it made a 20 percent reduction. Subway restaurants said it has made a 30 percent reduction restaurant-wide.

According to FDA officials, they are preparing to issue voluntary guidelines asking the food industry to lower sodium levels, and they believe they can make a big impact working with the industry to bring sodium levels down.

Once the guidelines are issued, Americans would not notice an immediate taste difference in higher-sodium foods such as pizza, pasta, bread and soups. The idea is to encourage gradual change so consumers' taste buds can adjust gradually, and to give the companies time to develop lower-sodium foods. 

Nevertheless, it is still not clear that when FDA will release such guidelines but it is expected that they should be ready by this year as set by its 2013 goal.

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