Federal agencies flooded with pro-salt comments
In September 2011 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requested comments about “Approaches to Reducing Sodium Consumption.” The federal agencies stopped accepting comments on Jan. 27, 2012.
Medical researchers, physicians, nurses, trade associations, food companies, business people, chefs, concerned citizens and others spoke out on behalf of salt.
Below are excerpts from comments posted on the federal government's website, regulations.gov. To read full comments, click "READ MORE" and follow the links. Long comments are often posted on the federal site in PDF format.
Low-sodium diets may kill people instead of saving them
The " `science’ on which the FDA policy on sodium reduction is based is dubious. This truth is already unmistakable now for most interested scientists and sooner or later it will be clear also to laymen. When this happens there will be responsible persons who would have a problem as the present recommendations may kill people instead of saving them. We therefore suggest that FDA, instead of considering how to reduce the sodium intake in the population, reconsiders the policy.”
- Niels Graudal and Gesche Jürgens, medical researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark and the authors of a 2011 study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension and the Cochrane Library journal, based on a meta-analysis of 167 previous studies.
Low-sodium diets unlikely to help, but have proven potential to harm
A “coherent body of evidence indicates that successful implementation of U.S. Dietary Guidelines and/or recommendations of the New York Department of Health (regarding sodium) are unlikely to produce benefit, but have the proven potential to cause harm.
- Dr. Michael Alderman, a blood pressure researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and editor of the American Journal of Hypertension.
READ MORE (PDF)
Disappointing taste is not something people get used to
When Campbell lowered the salt in its Select Harvest soups,"consumer complaints about the product taste/lack of flavor increased as soon as the shipment of Select Harvest soups at a silently reduced sodium level began arriving in stores. Although initial trial of the revamped product line was strong, repeat purchases were disappointing and sales went down to the point where corrective steps were taken to improve taste, including adding back some salt and other recipe changes."
"The task of reducing sodium while creating foods people love to eat is as complex as food itself. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Different foods present different issues when revising their recipes and groups of people react differently to one of the most important functionalities delivered by salt, namely taste. Disappointing taste is not something people get used to, they simply make other choices.There are thresholds of taste beyond which a food maker cannot venture. And, of course, some of the ingredients that might be used to help reduce the use of sodium create their own issues with which companies must contend in formulating a great tasting food. Thus, it is important to move sodium reduction only as far as consumers will accept it."
- Campbell Soup Company
Higher costs will bankrupt some food manufacturers
"The National Association of Manufacturers strongly urges the FDA to halt any consideration of regulations on the sodium content of food. The impact of regulations governing the salt content in manufactured foods will be substantial and negatively affect the entire food industry including supply chains, production and retail. The suggested regulatory framework will force companies to spend scarce capital to reformulate products and alter production processes at a time they can least afford it and without clear benefits. Nearly 90 percent of food manufacturing establishments employ fewer than 100 workers.v Many small- and medium-sized manufacturers within the food production supply chain will be unable to remain in business as these facilities cannot devote the resources necessary to reformulate products and remain competitive."
-The National Association of Manufacturers, the nation’s largest industrial trade association, representing 11,000 manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states.
Salt leavens, seasons, preserves and adds texture to food
"Beyond its role as a preservative, sodium affects the functional and physical
properties of food. It also helps develop a characteristic texture in food that
consumers expect. For example, sodium is used as a leavening agent, a seasoning
agent, a formulating and processing aid, and a dough conditioner. Further,
sodium compounds improve the tenderness of leaner cuts of meat, and provide
texture and control moisture in cheese. In bread, salt enhances color, improves
crumb structure, prevents excessive yeast action and inhibits the growth of acid producing
bacteria. In short, sodium plays a complex and essential role in food
American Frozen Foods Institute
Without salt, frozen food tastes like cardboard
"Perhaps most important, because it drives consumer tastes and preferences, is the use of salt to flavor food products. In addition to its own taste, salt also “masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food called ‘warmed-over flavor,’” which can make food taste like cardboard."
Frozen Potato Products Institute
Salt substitute in cheese-making 11 times more expensive
There are "challenges with reducing sodium in cheese, including increased formulation
costs. Potassium chloride is more expensive than sodium and must be used in greater
concentrations if it is substituted for sodium in cheese. As a result, it could cost as much as 11 times as much as sodium in cheese."
National Milk Producers Federation
Learn from history: The low-fat craze showed negative unintended consequences of focusing on a single nutrient instead of overall diet
"The food manufacturing industry has learned through past experience that reformulating
products to address only a single nutrient of concern can have unintended negative
consequences. For example, when consumers demanded foods that were low in fat or fat-free, many products were reformulated so that fat was replaced with sugar or other carbohydrate in order to maintain palatability. Consumers then misinterpreted those foods as being healthier and often consumed a greater number of total calories than the standard item would have provided."
- Grocery Manufacturers Association
Consumers should be free to choose foods they like
Food manufacturers should be free to produce the foods that they deem most competitive in the marketplace, and consumers should be free to purchase them if they choose. The FDA—if it is to serve any legitimate purpose—should instead focus on rooting out fraud and misrepresentation in food manufacturing or food labeling.
- The Center for Objective Health Policy
No proven health benefits to salt reduction
"Despite claims to the contrary, there is no clear evidence that reducing salt intake would have health benefits for the majority of Americans. Indeed, some research indicates that reductions in sodium consumption may have severe negative effects for a large minority of consumers. Nor is it certain that reducing the amount of salt in processed foods would even achieve the hoped for reduction in sodium consumption. Research into consumer behavior suggests that individuals tend to regulate salt intake to physiologically determined levels by (consciously or subconsciously) selecting foods to meet their needs."
- The Competitive Enterprise Institute
Fitness buff eats lots of salt and is healthy as a horse
"Dear Regulator, please cease and desist from demonizing salt. I love salt and eat lots of it every day. I am healthy as a horse, almost 50, am very fit, trim and muscular. I exercise every day and all levels of all my body processes and measurements are optimal. Therefore, I urge the FDA not to become involved in regulating or even recommending the level of salt in food."
- Julie Ann Williams