Natural Foods Merchandiser

Salty dispute under way

Salt could soon carry a warning label if talks in Washington have the impact that at least two health organizations hope for.

In 2005, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to regulate salt. On Nov. 29, the FDA held hearings to consider CSPI's proposed changes. The Washington, D.C.-based health-advocacy group wants the FDA to require labels on foods that contain high levels of salt, require manufacturers to limit salt in packaged goods, or revoke salt's status as generally recognized as safe. "Salt is generally recognized as dangerous," said CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson. "It doesn't make sense to leave it on the GRAS list."

But Jacobson concedes that a more realistic approach may be to put a warning label on foods that contain more than a yet-to-be-determined amount of salt. "The threshold would vary with the food category," Jacobson said. "It'd be different for bacon, cheese, bread and so on." Alternatively, the FDA could set a limit on salt for different food categories, and manufacturers of processed foods would have to stay below that threshold.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day. According to CSPI, however, the average American consumes about 4,000 milligrams daily.

The American Medical Association supports CSPI's proposed actions. "Excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease and stroke," said Dr. Stephen Havas, the AMA's vice president for science, quality and public health. "The need for immediate action is clear. The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll—the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year."

The four-month comment period ends March 28. To submit comments, go to

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 1/p.1

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