WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should regulate the amount of salt that can be added to foods to help Americans eat less sodium, an influential federal panel said on Tuesday.
Because Americans get most of their sodium from processed and restaurant foods, it is not enough to simply tell them to eat less salt and regulation of the food industry is needed, the Institute of Medicine said.
The FDA is already putting together measures to do this, the Washington Post reported.
Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which in turn causes strokes, heart disease and kidney failure.
"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," Jane Henney of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, who chaired the Institute of Medicine panel, said in a statement.
"The best way to accomplish this is to provide companies the level playing field they need so they are able to work across the board to reduce salt in the food supply."
Companies should be allowed to do this step by step, however, because otherwise they may lose customers unaccustomed to radical changes in flavor, the Institute panel of experts said.
People only need about 1,500 mg of salt a day to maintain bodily functions but the average American eats twice that, more than 3,400 milligrams a day or the equivalent of 1.5 teaspoons of salt.
The Institute, an independent organization, writes reports that are considered the definitive word on various subjects to advise the U.S. government and policymakers.
The Post quoted FDA sources speaking on condition of anonymity as saying they were preparing legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.
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