The number 1 killer in the United States isn’t gun violence or cancer – it’s heart disease. One of the biggest enemies of heart health is sodium (salt), which is heavily used in foods as a preservative and flavoring enhancement. Because of this, the FDA is seeking to lower sodium limits in commercially available foods across the USA.
Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral that our bodies require. Sodium is typically added to electrolyte restoration products like sports drinks. Too much, though, can have a profound impact on your health, resulting in heart disease, hypertension, strokes or other fatal or nearly fatal conditions and cardiac events.
The FDA is asking food manufacturers and restaurants to cut the salt content of their products significantly, though gradually, to help Americans eat healthier and live longer, healthier lives overall. “What we’d like to see is the food industry gradually lower the sodium content” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner, told NBC News, regarding most foods available in the U.S.
The wide-reaching recommendation will affect chain restaurants, processed foods at the grocery store, delivery services and anywhere else that food is prepared outside the home, including baby food products. Woodcock said the goal is to drastically cut down on heart disease and that reducing the sodium intake of Americans would “would have a major impact on hypertension, heart disease and stroke.”
Currently, the average American diet contains nearly twice the recommended limit of sodium in daily consumption, according to the FDA. Much of that comes from salt inserted into processed foods at restaurants and grocery stores, not added table salt. The goal is to reduce intake of salt by 12% (down to approximately 3,000 mg daily from the current 3,400 mg daily. The recommendation is less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon) daily. The overall reduction would drop approximately 60 teaspoons of salt from the diet annually.
The aim of this recommendation won’t drop the intake for Americans to the recommended limit, but it is a step in the right direction and is enough to begin lowering some of the health risks.
Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition noted, “We recognize that cutting down on sodium in your diet is hard to do on your own because about 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and prepared foods.”
The recommendation is voluntary, it should be noted, not forced by government rule. This means that, though the FDA strongly encourages companies to reduce the sodium content of their food products, they are not required to do so. However, Woodcock did say that the FDA plans to watch the industry carefully over the next few years and plans to offer rewards to companies that comply with the recommendations. No mention was made if action would be taken against companies that do not comply. Experts do believe the push will encourage many of the major food companies to act.