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May 2010 Issue

Jane Henney, MD, professor of medicine at UC, is leading the effort to set FDA standards on the amount of salt added to prepared food.
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UC Professor Leads Charge to Set FDA Standards on Salt in Food

Published May 2010

Reducing Americans’ excessive sodium consumption requires establishing new federal standards for the amount of salt that food manufacturers, restaurants and food service companies can add to their products, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine and requested by the U.S. Congress.

Because the vast majority of people’s sodium intake comes from salt that companies put in prepared meals and processed foods, this regulatory strategy would make it easier for consumers to eat lower, healthier amounts of salt without companies having to compromise flavor, said the committee that wrote the report.

The committee was chaired by Jane Henney, MD, professor of medicine at the UC College of Medicine.

Henney also served as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 1998 until 2001.

The FDA should gradually step down the maximum amount of salt that can be added to foods, beverages and meals through a series of incremental reductions.

The goal is not to ban salt, but rather to bring the amount of sodium in the average American’s diet below levels associated with the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke, and to do so in a gradual way that will assure that food remains flavorful to the consumer, the committee said.

"For 40 years we have known about the relationship between sodium and the development of hypertension and other life-threatening diseases, but we have had virtually no success in cutting back the salt in our diets,” Henney says.

"This report outlines strategies that will enable all of us to effectively lower our sodium consumption to healthy levels.”

On average, Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium—the amount in about 1.5 teaspoons of salt—each day.

The recommended adequate intake of sodium is 1,500 milligrams per day, and people over 50 need even less.

Americans’ salt consumption has been shaped in part by changes in eating habits as people consume more processed foods, dine out more frequently and prepare fewer meals from basic, raw ingredients in the home.

The FDA has the authority to regulate salt as a food additive, the report says.

Read more about this report at

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