Thursday, February 19, 2009

The IOM considers what to do about salt

If a new food additive had the same effects as salt, promoting high blood pressure in a large fraction of the population, it is doubtful the additive would be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, the official status of salt in federal regulations is "GRAS" or "Generally Recognized as Safe" -- a broad category that includes food ingredients such as vinegar that were grandfathered at the time that modern regulation of food additives began.

Nobody seems to know the right way to regulate salt. Strict regulation as a food additive raises concerns about Orwellian government overreach. Doing nothing leads to thousands of deaths from stroke and heart disease each year. Consumer education is a weak response, because most salt in the diet comes from processed and restaurant food, not salt from shakers. The American Medical Association recommends warning labels.

An Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee of experts is preparing a new report on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. The three presentations from federal agencies at the committee's first meeting were very different in tone, ranging from ambitious to nearly complacent. The next open meeting of the IOM committee, on March 30 in Washington, DC, will be an important venue for policy debate about salt and sodium.


Anonymous said...

Life isn't risk-free and it wouldn't be enjoyable if it was. Eating fats, sugars, salts, nitrates all increase health risks, but also increase enjoyment. Not only increase enjoyment, but are rather necessary to enjoyment of food.

Ashley Colpaart said...

I would argue that the issue should be focused on decreasing processed foods. Many additives that are GRAS, like red dye number this and that, preservatives and additives may also be causing health issues. I think the strategy should be in approaching more fresh, whole foods as our body was intended. Salt occurs naturally in nature. It's when it is used as a preservative in shelf stable foods that we are consuming more than intended.