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AMA Prescribes Less SaltAMA Prescribes Less Salt

August 1, 2006

2 Min Read
AMA Prescribes Less Salt

In mid-June, the American Medical Association (AMA), Chicago, formally released several recommendations aimed at reducing sodium intake in the United States. According to Dr. J. James Rohack, AMA board member and cardiologist, “Cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer of Americans. People who reduce dietary sodium intake are taking an important step in preventing future health problems.”

The AMA recommendations are as follows:

  • Urge FDA to revoke GRAS status of salt and to develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

  • Call for a minimum 50% reduction in the amount of sodium in processed foods, fast-food products and restaurant meals, to be achieved over the next decade.

  • Work with appropriate partners to educate consumers about the benefits of long-term, moderate reductions in sodium intake.

  • Discuss with FDA ways to improve labeling to assist consumers in understanding the amount of sodium contained in processed food products and to develop label markings and warnings for food high in sodium.

AMA believes that, in addition to reducing sodium intake, implementation of these recommendations will result in a better-educated consumer and will lower the incidences of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the United States.

The AMA announcement elicited quick response from a number of organizations, including the Salt Institute, Alexandria, VA, and the Food Products Association, Washington, D.C.

A statement issued by Richard L. Hanneman, president, Salt Institute, reads, in part: “The American Medical Association has misread the science, confusing blood-pressure effects with health outcomes. Of the 13 studies that have examined whether cutting salt will reduce heart attacks or improve mortality ... not a single study supports the AMA resolution.” Further, he states: “Following the AMA recommendation is scientifically unjustified and a waste of time and money. What we really need is a controlled trial of the health outcomes of salt reduction.”

Robert Earl, R.D., senior director of nutrition policy, Food Products Association, responded to the AMA recommendations by noting that food companies are diligently working to reformulate products and processes, but when sodium is reduced it creates challenges in maintaining a product’s consumer appeal and ensuring a food’s safety. Further, he says: “It is important for consumers to know that the amount of sodium in foods is clearly labeled on food packaging, and that a broad range of foods containing no sodium or low sodium, or with no added salt, is widely available. Rather than additional government requirements, what is needed is consumer education.”

In other countries, the call to reduce sodium has seen success. The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland report headway with their salt-reduction policies and cooperation from organizations representing all sectors of the food industry. The goal of both agencies is to reduce adults’ daily salt consumption to 6 grams by 2010. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 2,300 mg (1 teaspoon) of sodium per day.

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