Obama goes to war – against salt

By Cheryl Chumley

The Obama administration is cracking down on salt.
The Obama administration is cracking down on salt.

President Obama’s White House has set its sights on a new target – salt – and plans to have in place before he leaves office a new crackdown on how much sodium the food industry can use in its products.

“It remains a priority and it will come out this year,” said one former Food and Drug Administration official, about the sodium levels to be announced by the federal government for all food products, Politico reported.

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Some government research suggests consuming less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium per day; some, less than 2,300 milligrams. Federal authorities also advise about half the population to keep their sodium consumption under 1,500 milligrams, due to existing medical conditions.

The upcoming standards are expected to be voluntary. But industry officials aren’t happy.

“We have concerns that the science that would be the basis for the new sodium targets is outdated and something of this magnitude and long-term impact should also include more current research,” said Roger Lowe, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, in Politico.

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Industry research shows high-sodium diets aren’t directly tied to disease. Older government-backed research indicates too much salt causes high blood pressure and leads to heart disease.

The Obama-pressed standards are being hailed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest as a good thing for Americans. The CSPI has recently sued over the salt standards, saying the FDA actually completed a report two years ago that charted a course for industry to take to voluntarily reduced sodium in products sold in America, but then held off implementing that plan due to political pressure.

“FDA has dragged its feet and refused to do anything to protect Americans from excess sodium in the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson, president of the CSPI, when his group sued the FDA in October, Politico reported.

But the fight over what’s the healthiest level of salt consume each day is far from ended.

In 2011, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported those who consumed less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium each day, the level the government suggests shooting for, was tied to an increased risk for death.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support the current recommendations,” said Andrew Mente, a researcher with McMaster University in Ontario who’s spent considerable time researching the health impacts of sodium consumption, Politico reported.

Other health publications, including the New England Journal of Medicine, have brought forward similar reports that said decreasing sodium consumption too much increases health risks.

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