WASHINGTON — Public health experts urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Tuesday to force food makers to cut the salt hidden inside their products, something the agency is considering.
Most North Americans eat about 11/2 teaspoons of salt daily, more than double what they need for good health — and high enough to increase risk of high blood pressure and other problems. Most of that comes in processed foods — from soups to frozen pizza to sliced cheese.
Tuesday, the prestigious Institute of Medicine said the food industry hasn’t done enough to voluntarily cut back. It urged FDA to set maximum sodium levels for different foods in a stepwise rollback, so people have time to adjust.
The FDA hasn’t decided whether to regulate sodium levels, but “no options are off the table,” said spokeswoman Meghan Scott. “There is no initiative at the moment,” she said. But, “there is very little debate any longer over the impact sodium has.”
The American Medical Association has said that if the salt in processed and restaurant food were cut in half over 10 years, that ultimately 150,000 lives a year could be saved.
One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, in turn a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. And while being overweight and inactive raises blood pressure, too much salt is a big culprit as well.
Major foods makers have started reducing sodium in recent years, but have argued that they fear consumer backlash as the taste changes.
But specialists say people do gradually get used to the taste of less sodium.