WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to launch an initiative to reduce the salt intake of Americans, according to the Washington Post. The project reportedly will launch this year, and would eventually impose legal limits on
the amount of sodium allowed in processed food, in an effort to lower the number of deaths from heart disease and hypertension.
The agency said it will work with food manufacturers and health officials to gradually reduce salt levels over several years to let consumers acclimate to less salt.
The FDA has not yet set salt limits, but said it is analyzing the sodium in everything from pasta sauces to breads, according to the newspaper. With input from food makers, the government plans to come up with a salt threshold per category, with a measured step-down to help consumers adjust to the changes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has authority over meat and poultry, would team up with the FDA, which oversees most processed foods, in developing the new salt levels. Currently, there is no limit to how much salt may be used in processed foods, provided the amount is reported on nutrition labels.
Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bloomberg launched a campaign asking food makers and restaurants to reduce the sodium in their food products by 25% by 2015. This has received support from city officials in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore.
Most adults consume about twice the government's daily recommended limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt. In recent months, Conagra, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, General Mills, Sara Lee and others have announced that they would reduce sodium in many of their products.
CHART: Most sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods. Source: Mattes, RD, Donnelly, D.
Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1991 Aug; 10(4):383-393.