Current Salt, Sodium Regulations Are Sufficient, IDFA Tells FDA
IDFA last week submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that current regulations governing the use of salt and sodium in processed foods are sufficient for consumer health and should not be changed. The comment period follows a public hearing held by FDA last November to review its current policies and to discuss more stringent approaches that were suggested in a citizen petition filed nearly three years ago.
The petition, filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in November 2005, asked FDA to remove salt from the list of ingredients that are generally accepted as safe (GRAS), citing some studies that link excessive use of salt with elevated blood pressure. The petition also called for reducing the amount of salt allowed in processed food and adding health-related messaging to product labels.
In its comments, IDFA argues that salt is a necessary ingredient in many foods, because it adds flavor, serves as a preservative and offers other functional purposes, including cooling certain cheeses, such as mozzarella and provolone. Because all uses of salt would need to be reconsidered and researched before new regulations could be developed and implemented, entire categories of food could become unavailable, causing consumption and nutrient intake to drop.
"If changes in regulation were required, it could take months or years for the required research to prove salt's safety in a given food, then potentially more months or years for regulations to be written to reflect the science," IDFA states in its comments. "During this time, products that have been proven to be safe through years, and in some cases decades or centuries, of safe consumption would be restricted from sale."
In addition, IDFA notes that salt and sodium are already prominent parts of food product labels. Sodium is a required element in the Nutrition Facts panel, and a percent Daily Value is required to help consumers understand whether the amount is high or low.
"Consumers who are concerned about their sodium or salt intake are already provided with the information they need to make choices about the foods they consume," the comments state.
In the call for comments, FDA also asked for suggestions on future approaches that could help to reduce salt. IDFA recommends updating food standards, including cheese standards, to allow salt substitutes in addition to salt. IDFA also suggests allowing smaller incremental decreases in salt content for the product to use the claim "low sodium." Currently, processors must cut sodium by at least 25% against a reference food before they can use the claim.
In the end, IDFA concludes that, "As with so many other conditions influenced by the diet, the best recommendation may be simply to eat a healthful, well-rounded diet in order to have the best health outcome."
To read IDFA's comments, click here.
For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling, at email@example.com or 202-737-4332.
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Posted March 31, 2008