CDC Throws a Wet Blanket on Salt

March 27, 2009

By Ricardo Carvajal –      

The latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives credence to a possible link between higher intake of sodium and an increased risk of hypertension.  According to CDC, nearly 70% of U.S. adults should be limiting their intake of sodium to 1,500 mg/day (@ 2/3 teaspoon of salt), considerably lower than the estimated average daily intake of 3,436 mg/day for those age 2 and older. (Current dietary guidelines recommend a limit of 2,300 mg/day, but a lower limit of 1,500 mg/day is recommended for those in certain at-risk groups.)  CDC recommends that health-care providers “inform their patients of the evidence linking greater sodium intake to higher blood pressure.”

In an accompanying editorial note, CDC states that “[p]ublic health actions to reduce sodium intake likely will include 1) reducing the sodium content of processed foods; 2) encouraging consumption of more low-sodium foods, such as fruits and vegetables; and 3) providing more relevant information about sodium in food labeling.”  CDC further states that current percent daily value information in nutrition labeling of packaged foods “is likely to mislead the majority of consumers, for whom the 1,500 mg/day limit is applicable.”  As an example of a public health strategy to reduce sodium intake, CDC cites New York’s efforts to reduce sodium levels in processed and restaurant foods.

In 2005, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a citizen petition asking FDA to revoke the GRAS status of salt, require a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods, and reduce the daily value for sodium to 1,500 mg/day, among other actions.  In response to the petition, FDA held a public hearing in November 2007.  The citizen petition is still pending.

Categories: Foods