The Federal Government’s push for reduced sodium in American foods will likely affect your favorite foods within the next few months. Food manufacturers will be pushed to change their recipes, which will change the taste and texture of many foods made in the U.S.
Government officials have indicated that they will be announcing a “voluntary” sodium reduction scheme as early as this summer, although the voluntary aspect of it may be lost on the millions of Americans whose favorite foods will be changing without their consent.
When the Federal Government posted their plans to reduce sodium years ago in the Federal Register, Americans rose up with a resounding, “Hands off our salt!” The public comments on the federal site were overwhelmingly against sodium reduction.
The government’s plan has also become contentious with medical researchers who increasingly are presenting scientific evidence that population-wide sodium reduction is unnecessary and/or potentially harmful.
The latest evidence, including a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrates that there is a safe “range” of salt consumption that results in a lower risk to the overall population. According to this research, the lower end of this safe range begins around 3,000 mg and extends up to 5,000 mg sodium. Americans consume about 3,400 mg sodium on average — at the lower end of this safe range. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines recommend a level of 2300 mg a day, a number below the safe range.
Dr. Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension and former president of the American Society of Hypertension, has repeatedly cited his concern that a population-wide sodium reduction campaign could have unintended consequences. “They want to do an experiment on a whole population without a good control,” Alderman says.
The government points to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines as the basis for pushing sodium reduction; however the Dietary Guidelines on sodium have been in dispute for years. Critics of the government guidelines remind us that the USDA has been admittedly wrong in the past. Most recently the USDA changed its view on eggs finding that they are part of a healthy diet after 40 years of saying they were bad.
For decades, Americans have also been told that they need to drastically reduce their salt intake. However, latest research indicates, including a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, low-salt diets can lead to insulin resistance, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular events, iodine deficiency, loss of cognition, low birth weights, and higher rates of death. Studies show dangerous side effects from lowering sodium below 3,000 mg/day.
Critics of the government’s sodium reduction plans have encouraged people to sign a petition called Hands Off Our Salt on the White House website and have encouraged people to email Secretary Sylvia Burwell of U.S. Health and Human Services. On the other side, some activist groups have been pushing for the government to force changes to almost every recipe in the U.S. It remains to be seen which voices the government will heed.