The government, through the Food and Drug Administration, is planning to issue regulations with the force of law limiting how much salt products can contain. The plan is to implement phased reductions of salt so as to gradually wean consumers off of sodium chloride.
The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.
The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.
Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.
The legal limits would be open to public comment, but administration officials do not think they need additional authority from Congress.
“This is a 10-year program,” one source said. “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 FDA, which regulates most processed foods, would be joined in the effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry.
Currently, manufacturers can use as much salt as they like in products because under federal standards, it falls into the category deemed “generally recognized as safe.” Foodmakers are merely required to report the amount on nutrition labels.
But for the past 30 years, health officials have grown increasingly alarmed as salt intake has increased with the explosion in processed foods and restaurant meals. Most adults consume about twice the government’s daily recommended limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . .
“We’re working on it voluntarily already,” said Melissa Musiker, senior manager of science policy, nutrition and health at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. In recent months, Conagra, Pepsico, Kraft Foods, General Mills, Sara Lee and others have announced that they would reduce sodium in many of their products. Pepsico has developed a new shape for sodium chloride crystals that the company hopes will allow it to reduce salt by 25 percent in its Lay’s Classic potato chips.
Read the rest of it, including the protests from the salt industry, which argues that the more salt we eat, the more salt we excrete. The article also quotes food industry spokesmen who point out problems with cutting the salt out of many products and who observe that low-sodium products just don’t sell all that well. But the marketplace won’t matter. Especially now that the government is in charge of our health.