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Even if you throw your salt shaker away, you can use or eat a lot of salt— especially if you eat processed or prepared foods. In fact, the majority of salt in the daily American diet comes from such foods, which are often found on supermarket shelves and in restaurant meals.
That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to gradually reduce the amount of salt you add to foods. The FDA has released a draft guidance for industry that will set voluntary goals for reducing sodium levels in processed and prepared foods.
The primary focus is on salt added to your foods by manufacturers and restaurants before you eat them—not on the salt you add on your own either when cooking or at the table.
The goal is to help consumers gradually reduce their daily salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. (Recall, the daily salt intake was reduced from 3,500 mg). This is roughly about one teaspoon of salt, the daily consumption recommended in federal dietary guidelines. Today, Americans consume an average 3,400 mg per day—almost 50 percent more than is generally recommended – you are putting your health at risk. Visit: https://www.fda.gov/
Why is Too Much Sodium a Serious Problem? The words “sodium” and “salt” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Salt you sprinkle on your meal or add while cooking is a crystal-like compound (40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride). Sodium, on the other hand, is a mineral, and one of the elements found in salt. Salt is how sodium is most often consumed. Between personal use and salt added to processed and prepared foods, at least 95 percent of the sodium in your diet comes in the form of salt.
Sodium (which the body needs a certain amount of to function properly) occurs naturally in many foods, including celery, beets and milk. And as a food ingredient, sodium — whether from salt or other sodium-containing ingredients — has many uses, such as thickening, enhancing flavor, and preserving foods.
The dangers of too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Reducing salt in foods could prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and illnesses over a decade.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers paints a sobering picture.
- 90 percent of American adults eat more salt than is recommended.
- Children and adolescents eat too much salt too, ranging from 2,900 mg per day for kids 6 to 10 years old, to 3,700 mg for teens age 14 to 18.
- The recommended upper limits for salt consumption for children under 14 are lower than 2,300 mg limit recommended for older teens and adults. The recommended upper limits for children are 2,200 mg per day for ages 9 to 13; 1,900 mg for ages 4 to 8; and 1,500 mg for ages 1 to 3.
- There’s evidence that children who eat higher salt foods carry that pattern into adulthood.
- One in three Americans has high blood pressure, and in African Americans, that number increases to almost half. Read the testimonials and recipes on www.SodiumFreeSpices.com.
- What Kinds of Food Can Be High in Sodium? Processed or prepared foods high in salt include pizza, sandwiches, deli meats, pasta dishes, snacks, salad dressings, soups, and cheese. It is not good to rely on your taste buds, alone. Foods high in salt will not always have a salty taste . While pickles quickly give themselves away, sweet-tasting cereals and pastries also have salt. In addition, while one serving of a food, like a slice of bread, may not have a lot of salt, eat several slices a day and it can add up—and you may be consuming way more salt than you realize.
- The Proposed Solution. FDA’s aim is to reduce daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, but is more challenging for the industry to meet. May require innovation in the development of new technologies and product formulations.People generally do not notice small reductions (about 10 to 15 percent) in sodium and, over time, taste buds get used to larger changes, especially if changes are made incrementally. So the FDA’s approach allows consumers to gradually become accustomed to the taste of foods that have less sodium.
“This is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Sodium plays different roles, depending on the food, and each food has a different potential for sodium reduction,” says Kasey Heintz, a biologist in the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety.
In salad dressings, for example, FDA found a variety of sodium content levels among top-selling products and a good deal of potential for reduction. FDA also sees the potential for significant reductions in many snack foods, given the variation in sodium content in the marketplace.
“That is why the draft guidance document outlines targets for about 150 subcategories of foods within 16 major food categories that contribute to sodium intake,” Heintz says. FDA estimates that this strategy could yield annual benefits of $70 billion a year or more in improved health and longevity, in addition to reducing or delaying medical expenses.
Proposed targets apply to foods prepared in restaurants and other food service establishments. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, almost half of every food dollar you spend on food consumed is outside the home.