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Experts Urge FDA to Lower Salt in American Diet
Date:4/20/2010

U.S. panel says agency should cut levels slowly over next decade to protect public health

TUESDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should take steps to lower the amount of salt in the American diet over the next decade, an expert panel advised Tuesday.

In a report from the Institute of Medicine, an independent agency created by Congress to research and advise the federal government on public health issues, the panel recommended that the FDA slowly but surely cut back the levels of salt that manufacturers typically add to foods.

"Reducing American's excessive sodium consumption requires establishing new federal standards for the amount of salt that food manufacturers, restaurants and food service companies can add to their products," a news release from the National Academy of Sciences stated.

The plan is for the FDA to "gradually step down the maximum amount of salt that can be added to foods, beverages and meals through a series of incremental reductions," the statement said. "The goal is not to ban salt, but rather to bring the amount of sodium in the average American's diet below levels associated with the risk of hypertension [high blood pressure], heart disease and stroke, and to do so in a gradual way that will assure that food remains flavorful to the consumer."

FDA insiders have said that the agency will indeed heed the panel's recommendations, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The Salt Institute, an industry group, reacted to the news with shock. "Public pressure and politics have trumped science," said Morton Satin, technical director of the institute.

"There is evidence on both sides of the issue, as much against population-wide salt reduction as for it," Satin said. "People who are equally well-known in hypertension are arguing on both sides of the issue."

But Dr. Jane E. Henney, chairwoman of the committee that wrote
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