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FDA to hold public hearing regarding salt in food

On Nov. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing concerning its policies on salt in food. The hearing was scheduled in response to a citizen petition submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

CSPI's petition, filed in 2005, called for limits on the levels of salt allowed in processed foods as well as the revocation of salt's Generally Recognized as Safe status.

In the petition, CSPI said that excess sodium in the American diet leads to hypertension and to subsequent heart attacks and strokes. In 2005 the group estimated that cutting salt levels in half could save 150,000 lives every year.

CSPI requested the FDA lower the individual Daily Value of salt to 1,500 milligrams from 2,400 milligrams and to set upper limits to the levels of sodium in processed foods, which contribute about 75 percent of a person's average daily salt intake.

CSPI's request isn't a new initiative. The group first petitioned the FDA in 1978 when they asked for sodium limits in processed foods and again in 1981, calling for warning labels on food products. In 1982, the FDA denied these requests but agreed to act if the food industry was unable to lower salt intake levels on its own.

However, according to data collected by CSPI, daily consumption of salt by Americans increased from 2,800 milligrams per day in the late 1970s to 3,400 milligrams per day in 2000.

Last year, the American Medical Association's support of CSPI's efforts caught the FDA's attention.

"FDA is aware that other organizations are in general agreement with some of the recommendations in CSPI's petition," the FDA said. "For example, at the July 2006 annual meeting of the American Medical Association, the AMA announced recommendations, in the form of a report issued by the AMA's Council on Science and Health, to the agency echoing many of the regulatory actions suggested by CSPI. The agency is very much interested in hearing the views of other interested parties, including the AMA."

According to the Federal Register, the purpose of the upcoming hearing is for the FDA to share its current framework of policies regarding salt and sodium and to solicit information and comments from interested persons on this current framework and on potential future approaches, including approaches described in the citizen petition.

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