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Packaged Foods Lobby Group Fights Efforts to Reduce America's Salt Intake

Packaged Foods Lobby Group Fights Efforts to Reduce America's Salt Intake

"Americans don't consume large amounts of salt because they request it, but often do so unknowingly because manufacturers and restaurants put it in."
Stephen Havas, American Medical Association

November 30, 2007 —

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has in the past brought us efforts to end the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools, is once again encountering resistance from America's largest trade group, The Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association. CSPI wants the FDA to step up its regulation of salt by improving its labeling mechanism, requiring food manufacturers to reduce the levels of salt in packaged food, and revoking salt's "generally recognized as safe" status.

The public interest group cites mounting evidence that excessive salt intake significantly increases an individuals chances of experiencing stroke, heart attacks, hypertension, or kidney failure. According to CSPI, cutting the amount of salt in packaged foods in half could save more than 150,000 lives a year. The average American consumes nearly 150 percent of the recommended maximum daily intake of salt.

But the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association, which has traditionally fought food regulation at every turn, says that any major efforts to reduce the sodium in processed foods would be "extremely cumbersome" to the industry. "Salt has been used safely in foods since antiquity," said Robert Earl a spokesman for the group. But Stephen Havas of the American Medical Association, says such excuses have not place in a public health debate:

The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll - the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year.  I am sure no one would tolerate so many deaths from airline crashes, so why tolerate it from food?

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