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The Food and Drug Administration decided to publish a guideline which may help the reduction of salt consumption in the general population. The recommendations are still in draft and industry representatives are invited to discussions them before implementation.
According to governmental statistics, 70% of the sodium consumption originates from the food industry.
Salt Consumption in America
While the daily recommended sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams, the average adult in America consumes 3,400 milligrams of salt on a regular day.
Excessive sodium intake could cause high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Public health advocates say that the salt reduction measures could save thousands of lives.
Many industry leaders say they have already limited the amount of salt used in their products. Companies such as Wal-Mart, Nestle or Subway declared their full acceptance of the FDA recommendations and said they already took measures to reduce sodium.
Salt is used to enhance taste and add flavor to meals. Aside from this, companies use salt to prolong the life and quality of their food product and to improve their texture and appearance.
Officials say that many people are not aware of how much salt they are consuming on a daily basis.
The salt content varies largely even in the same category of foods. For example, one slice of bread can contain from a minimum of 80 milligrams up to a maximum of 230 milligrams of salt.
The Salt Debate
FDA delayed publishing the guidelines even if the issue was pointed out since 2010. Then, a report from the Institute of Medicine revealed that companies made no consistent effort in reducing sodium.
In their defense, food companies mentioned a 2013 study that failed to prove any benefits coming from salt reduction. FDA felt obliged to continue with voluntary prescriptions only.
Even if salt content is displayed on food labels, this is the first time the government proposes salt limits to companies.
By publishing these guidelines, FDA hopes to drop the daily salt consumption in the general population to 3,000 milligrams in the course of the next two years. Reaching the recommended daily value is expected only in ten years time.
The guidelines suggest salt reductions for around 150 categories of foods, with targets to be achieved within 2 and ten years. This broad timeframe would help consumers to adjust their taste buds to the new taste of food products. Also, companies will have enough time to develop low-sodium recipes.
The FDA proposal may have a difficult time being voted by the Congress, as Republicans already took the side of the food industry in other major debates, such as advertising junk food for children and listing calories labels on restaurant menus.
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