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Your mother used to say, "taste it first before you put salt on it," right? Now the federal government would like to you to do the same thing. The FDA is planning a major undertaking which will limit the amount of sodium in the American diet by placing federal limits on the amount of salt that can be added to processed foods. At this time, since salt is "generally recognized as safe" there are no limits on the amount manufacturers may add. Salt consumption has increased to the point where most adults consume nearly twice the recommended daily amount.
According to The Washington Post, 77 percent of the salt in an adult diet comes from processed food. In comparison, only 6 percent is actually added at the table. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt, designed over a period of years to gradually lessen sodium consumption. Studies at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.
Despite the seemingly strong scientific evidence supporting the benefits of cutting back on salt consumption, Morton Satin, director for technical and regulatory affairs at the Salt Institute does not necessarily agree that science supports the health benefits of less salty foods. Satin would even describe the proposed regulations as a "disaster for the public."
New Yorkers have been among the first to brave the potential disaster of less salty food. The Post reports that in January of this year, the city began a campaign urging food manufacturers and chain restaurants to voluntarily reduce sodium by 25 percent in their products nationwide over the next five years. Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and the District of Columbia also support the New York program.
Food manufactures say they voluntarily have been working on limiting the amount of salt in prepared food, but according to The Post, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those attempts have failed. The industry is now preparing for the next move from the FDA in conjunction with the USDA.
Despite the success or failure of the FDA undertaking to set government restrictions on salt in processed foods, consumers can take measures into their own hands. The government already requires the amount of sodium in prepared food be listed on the package. If you are unsure of the amount of sodium you may be ingesting, be sure to read before you eat.