20111213

My letter to the FDA to support sodium reduction efforts

Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0400

I support your efforts to consider possible strategies and request you make sodium reduction a top national public health priority.

Americans are consuming far too much salt from packaged and restaurant foods, which account for over 75% of the sodium we consume.  The current average daily consumption for all adults is about 4,000 milligrams (mg), even though the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 1,500 mg for people with hypertension, those who are middle-aged or older, and African Americans.  Almost half the U.S. adult population falls into  those categories, yet 98% of them exceed the sodium recommendation.

High levels of sodium consumption contribute to hypertension, which 90% of Americans will develop over their lifetime, and can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.  At least 150,000 lives could be saved annually in the United States if sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods were cut in half.  Direct medical costs would be cut by $18 billion per year by reducing sodium consumption from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg per day and by $28 billion per year if further reduced to 1,500 mg per day.

The food industry maintains that voluntary actions are enough to lower sodium to safe levels.  However, changes made by food producers' over the past four decades have been inadequate to confront a real  and growing -- health crisis.  Rather than waiting for industry to make improvements at its own pace, the FDA should implement the Institute of Medicine's recommendations to establish mandatory limits on the sodium content of packaged and restaurant foods.  Those regulations could be phased in gradually over time to allow food manufacturers to remove the excess sodium from their food products without causing a consumer backlash.

Thank you for your consideration of this important public health issue.  There is virtually nothing else the FDA could  do to improve America's food supply that would provide a greater benefit to public health than to reduce sodium levels in the foods we eat.

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