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FDA Mulls Cutting Salt in Processed Foods
Date:11/29/2007

Experts agree Americans eat too much sodium, but differ on need for regulation

THURSDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a hearing on Thursday to debate just how much salt is too much in the processed foods Americans eat.

The hearing is being held in response to a request made in 2005 by the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), asking the agency to make changes to the regulatory status of salt, to require limits on salt levels in processed foods, and to require health messages related to salt and sodium on food labels.

"Very few people dispute that Americans get way too much salt from processed and restaurant foods, and that that an excess promotes hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, and early death," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "While the FDA has historically declined to challenge companies to lower high sodium levels, it is increasingly hard for FDA officials to ignore the calls to action made in recent years by the medical community."

In fact, 150,000 American lives could be saved each year if the salt in processed foods and restaurant meals were cut in half, the American Medical Association has said.

Not everyone agrees that regulation is the way to go, however.

"Americans consume too much salt," agreed Milton Stokes, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, which represents the nation's nutritionists. "But I don't think the idea of a sodium warning would be effective. People are confused enough. It makes people almost afraid to eat."

One food industry representative also opposes new regulation.

"The issue is really more about individual's dietary patterns and food choices," said Robert Earl, senior director of nutrition policy at the Food Products Association (FPA), a food industry lobbying group.

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