Call to action: Send a letter, save a life

November 16, 2007

On November 29, 2007, the Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing on salt reduction.

According to the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2004, reducing sodium consumption by half would save about 150,000 lives per year. High blood pressure is dangerous and widespread in our society. 65 million American adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), another 45 million people have “prehypertension,” and about 90 percent of Americans will eventually develop hypertension. African Americans’ rate of hypertension is 60 percent greater than that of the general population. In addition, two out of three adults with diabetes have high blood pressure.

A small amount of sodium is necessary for health, however, the amount in the typical American diet is two or three times the recommended amount and a major cause of high blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is a major cause of strokes, heart attacks, and chronic kidney disease.

While obesity, genetics, and other factors play a role in hypertension, excessive sodium in the diet is a major-and relatively easily controlled-factor. A recent government-sponsored landmark study found that among people aged 30 to 54, who were pre-hypertensive, and cut back on sodium, reduced their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by 25 percent and their risk of dying from it by 20 percent.

Since 1980, every edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (published jointly by the Departments of Health and Human Services [HHS] and Agriculture [USDA]) has recommended that people consume less salt. Yet, food manufacturers and restaurants-whose products contribute about three-fourths of dietary sodium-have not significantly reduced the sodium content of their products over the past quarter-century.

In contrast to the U.S. government, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has made salt reduction a top priority. The FSA is making consumers more aware of the health threat posed by excessive salt consumption. The FSA is also exerting strong pressure on the food and restaurant industries to gradually lower sodium levels by about one-third over five years.

Salt reduction should be a top health priority of our government also. We need to urge the FDA to stop regulating salt as a substance that is Generally Recognized As Safe-because, in fact, it is generally recognized as dangerous! The FDA should not only urge food manufacturers and restaurants to lower the sodium content of their products, but also use its regulatory authority to do such things as set limits on the amounts of sodium in various categories of foods and require warning labels on high-sodium foods. FDA action on salt could provide an enormous health benefit at very little cost to companies or consumers.

The FDA needs to hear from consumers like you (especially because the makers of salty snacks, salty soups, and other salty foods will be flooding the FDA with their advice!) – Send a letter today and let the FDA know you are concerned.

Food and Drug Administration Division of Dockets Management
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061 (HFA-305)
Rockville, MD, 20852
Phone: 301-827-6860
Fax: 301-827-6870

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