By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – The Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines for the food industry on Wednesday aimed at significantly reducing the amount of sodium consumed by Americans.
The new guidelines, which the FDA has been working on for five years, are not mandatory but pressure food manufacturers to limit the amount of salt in processed food.
The agency notes that Americans eat far too much sodium, which has been linked to increases in heart disease and other health issues.
The new guidelines say that the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. That amount is 50 percent more salt than the 2,300 mg of less daily intake recommended by experts.
By compelling manufacturers, the FDA hopes to reduce sodium to the recommended levels.
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.”
Excess sodium is linked to high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is in turn connected to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke – the leading killers of Americans.
Heart disease and strokes killed more than 14 million people worldwide in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
If sodium intake was reduced by 40 percent by 2026, the FDA estimates, 500,000 deaths from high blood pressure could be prevented and about $100 billion in health care costs could be eliminated.
“The totality of the scientific evidence supports sodium reduction from current intake levels,” Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement Wednesday.