?Pass the saltshaker, please? is a phrase uttered in many households and restaurants. Public health officials, however, are urging food manufacturers and restaurants to lower the salt content in food because too much sodium is bad for people?s blood pressure, and high blood pressure affects the heart, brain, and kidneys. Physicians recommend that the 50 million Americans with hypertension eat a low-sodium diet of about 1500 mg/day.
The FDA?s effort to cut the sodium in some foods?those labeled ?healthy??is at a standstill. Some food manufacturers have argued that they have not found good-tasting alternatives, and some lower-sodium frozendinner brands have stopped selling. The FDA allows, for example, no more than 480 mg of sodium in ?healthy? soups, compared with canned soups? usual 800 to 1000 mg. ?Healthy? frozen dinners can have no more than 600 mg of sodium. FDA regulators are contemplating giving soup makers until 2006 to lower sodium levels to 360 mg per serving or lose the ?healthy? label, but allowing frozen dinners to remain at 600 mg.
On the other hand, restaurant owners have said that their food can have more sodium partly because the serving sizes are bigger (according to testing done by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest). Food companies are working hard to find ways to cut sodium, but their officials have stressed that a low-salt market will take time. Food makers and health officials agree that making foods less salty hinges on consumer demand, and so far their focus has been on reducing the fat content in food rather than the salt content.