WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to launch an initiative to reduce the salt intake of Americans, the Washington Post reports. The plan involves limiting the sodium in processed foods in order to lower the number of deaths from heart disease and hypertension.
The effort will involve the first legal limitations on the amount of allowable sodium in food. The agency will work with food manufacturers and health officials to lower salt slowly over time to let Americans adjust to less salt.
No salt limits have been set yet, but the FDA is analyzing the sodium in everything from pasta sauces to breads and thousands of other products in between. With input from food makers, the government would come up with a salt threshold per category, with a measured step-down to help consumers adjust to the changes.
Public comments would be solicited for the legal limits but the agency would not seek congressional authority. "This is a 10-year program," said one source, who asked not to be identified because the program has not been formally unveiled. "This is not rolling off a log. We're talking about a comprehensive phase-down of a widely used ingredient. We're talking about embedded tastes in a whole generation of people."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has authority over meat and poultry, would team up with the FDA, which oversees most processed foods, in developing the new salt levels.
"We€™re working on it voluntarily already," said Melissa Musiker, senior manager of science policy, nutrition and health at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Recently, many food makers have revealed plans to lower sodium in numerous products.
Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bloomberg started a campaign asking food makers and restaurants to voluntarily lower salt in their food products by 25 percent by 2015, a move supported by Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore. Last month, a New York assemblyman introduced a bill to lower salt in restaurant food.