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FDA to food suppliers: Please don’t use so much salt!

FDA to food suppliers: Please don’t use so much salt!

In an effort to decrease the amount of sodium we consume as a country, the FDA has politely asked restaurants, cafeterias, and packaged food manufacturers to hold the salt.

The problem? It’s just that: a request. The guidelines are fully voluntary. And even if everyone complied, the result would only be a modest decrease in daily sodium intake: Americans currently consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, and this would bring it down to 3,000 mg. The government’s own recommended limit is 2,300 mg per day, and an even healthier goal would be around 1,500 mg.

The FDA says that “even these modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will substantially decrease diet-related diseases.”

That’s true, and make no mistake: The FDA should target suppliers. About 70 percent of the sodium that Americans consume comes from restaurants and processed and packaged foods. And the new guidance applies to all of that.

But many experts, including me, are not convinced that these suppliers will suddenly see the light and reduce the sodium in their products. After all, salt increases flavor and makes us want to eat more of their products. To put it bluntly, making food that’s bad for our health is good for their bottom lines.

Another criticism?  All of this is long overdue: The New York Times points out that the FDA first warned that Americans were eating too much salt... in 1970!  So why so long to come out with a written plea disguised as guidance?  After all, in this amount of time, millions of Americans have likely suffered and/or died from diseases that might have been prevented through dietary change.  Remember that sodium intake is tightly linked to blood pressure levels and high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

Step One arose, in part, from a frustration that meaningful change in our food landscape is simply taking too long.  And if the FDA’s idea of slowly lowering our collective sodium intake isn’t fast enough for you either, don’t worry: We have a much quicker approach for individuals -- and it’s quite easy. By substituting Step One Foods Oatmeal for a regular bagel at breakfast and a Step One Foods Chocolate Crunch Bar for a regular sized Snickers Bar in the afternoon, you will eliminate about 540 mg of sodium each day. 

Over the course of one year, that's 2 CUPS less salt entering your body. 

And over a lifetime, that's 100 fewer POUNDS of salt your body will have had to process. All from just two tiny food substitutions!

Imagine what our collective health would look like if the FDA instead mandated that all food companies follow Step One's lead…

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