- The Center for Science in the Public Interest is suing the FDA for inaction on a decade-old petition to reduce the amount of salt in the food supply. CSPI blames sodium for high rates of stroke, heart disease, and other health complications in the U.S.
- "CSPI’s 2005 petition asked the FDA to revoke salt's status as a 'generally recognized as safe,' or GRAS, substance, and to treat it as a food additive under the law. The petition specifically urged the agency to require food manufacturers to gradually reduce the amount of sodium in different categories of processed food, and to require health messages on retail packages of table salt one-half ounce or larger," according to a news release.
- While many food companies have continued to raise sodium levels in products, some companies, including Wal-Mart, Unilever, and Cargill, have prioritized sodium reduction and made headway.
CSPI, a nonprofit food safety watchdog group, first asked the FDA to revoke salt's GRAS status in 1978. In 1983, CSPI filed a lawsuit over the agency's inaction, after which the FDA "promised to consider additional regulatory actions to reduce sodium if the food industry failed to reduce sodium sufficiently on its own. While dismissing CSPI's claim, the court in that case indicated that the FDA would be required to make a decision on salt's GRAS status after voluntary efforts had been given sufficient time to be assessed," the news release said.
In 2005, CSPI filed another lawsuit against the FDA but was told the organization had to re-file its petition, which it did.
A spokeswoman from the FDA told Food Navigator-USA it's working to "draft voluntary targets for sodium reduction in various foods," though with no target date. "We will continue to work closely with stakeholders on sodium reduction targets, which have the potential for major public health gains," she said. "The FDA's goal is to encourage industry to gardually lower sodium in the foods that are available to consumers so that they will have more options available to them."
Recent research however, found salt should not be as demonized as previously thought. One study suggested that consumers could eat double the daily recommended level. Other research suggests that the low level of salt intake recommended by the federal government could be dangerous.
Salt is yet another contentious issue facing decision-makers for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, who are already dealing with how to handle meat, sustainability, milk, and other contested dietary issues.