News & Politics

Government Nannies Say New Salt Guidelines Imminent

The Obama administration plans to continue its war on food and food manufacturers with proposed guidelines for sodium consumption.

According to Politico, new sodium guidelines are set to be released as early as this summer…although the science behind the regulation is confused.  The government effort to get Americans to lower their sodium consumption has stalled on several fronts due to recent studies that contradict the conventional wisdom that sodium is a “pressing health threat.” A new lawsuit filed by the left-wing Center for Science in the Public Interest should fast-track the voluntary guidelines that were written two years ago but never released, the FDA says. The suit alleges that the government violated the law by not forcing companies to label certain products with high-sodium warnings.

“It remains a priority and it will come out this year,” said a former administration official who asked not to be named.

FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney said the voluntary targets have “the potential for major public health gains.”

The food industry is not happy about the impending “voluntary” guidelines.

“We have concerns that the science that would be the basis for the new sodium targets is outdated and something of this magnitude and long-term impact should also include more current research,” said Roger Lowe, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Recent studies show that high-sodium diets do not increase health risks although most public health officials prefer the older studies that link sodium consumption to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

“We don’t think this is justified,” said Morton Satin, the vice president of science and research at the Salt Institute, an industry group representing salt producers. “What is the impact? We’re going to have salt replaced by a cocktail of chemicals. They can’t just take out salt. They have to make the food tasty.”

Recent studies on the science of sodium suggest that the government’s recommended sodium consumption level actually puts people at risk of death. In 2011, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported that going below the recommended level of 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day was dangerous.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support the current recommendations,” said Andrew Mente, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario who has published a significant body of research, including the JAMA study.

Other journals have published similar studies, including one that found there is a healthy range of sodium consumption and falling below or above that range increases risk of cardiovascular disease. Most Americans already fall into the healthy range. Why does the government need to get involved in Americans’ food choices if there is no existing problem? Said Mente, “basically their entire legacy would be questioned.”

“It’s pretty much a club,” Mente said. “Now the new data is questioning the dogma of this particular club and now they wanted to defend it.”

On top of the new studies contradicting the basis for the government’s proposed guidelines, the Grocery Manufacturers Association “under enormous pressure from advocacy groups and changing consumer preferences” has already been reducing the sodium content in its products. So once more, the problem is fixing itself without government interference.

Another point of contention is what will be used to compensate for the lack of salt in common, everyday food products. Will it end up being worse for you than salt?

“What we can’t do is make all these changes and then have the government turn around and say actually this was wrong — oh and all the substitutes you’re using are worse,” said one industry leader who asked not to be named.

Stay tuned to find out what the government ultimately “recommends” for your health.

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