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Doctors' group urges US to limit salt in foods

Lax rules imperil lives, AMA says

Email|Print| Text size + By Emily Brown
Bloomberg News / November 30, 2007

WASHINGTON - US regulators should limit salt in foods to combat high blood pressure among Americans, according to a consumer group and the American Medical Association.

Excessive consumption of salt can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, and kidney failure, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The AMA, the nation's largest physician organization, is urging "immediate action" by the Food and Drug Administration, spokesman Stephen Havas said.

The FDA is considering replacing voluntary guidelines with mandatory regulations. Cutting salt in foods by half may save more than 150,000 lives a year, Jacobson said yesterday at an FDA hearing in College Park, Md. Adults are now consuming 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day, almost double the recommended amount of 2,300 milligrams, equal to one teaspoon of salt, Havas said.

"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," said Havas, vice president of science quality and public health of the Chicago-based group, in a statement yesterday.

Research has shown that lowering sodium intake lowers blood pressure, Jacobson told the panel. Action by the FDA to restrict the use of the additive in foods is "long overdue," he said.

One food industry spokesman, while endorsing "small steps" to reduce sodium intake, said further efforts might be "extremely cumbersome."

"All risk factors and research must factor into any FDA policy," said the spokesman, Robert Earl, senior director of the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association, which represents food and beverage companies.

Blacks, middle-aged and elderly people, and those with preexisting high blood pressure are at greater risk of heart problems linked to salt consumption, the public interest center said.

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