Hidden Salt is a Hidden Danger

Aug 11, 2004 03:14 AM EDT

Public health specialists are pressuring food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce salt in their products due to its harmful effects on blood pressure.

North Americans consume nearly two teaspoons of salt a day, almost double the upper limit for good health. The vast majority of this sodium is hidden inside common foods like canned sauces and frozen snacks.

FDA effort stalled

An FDA effort to decrease sodium content in foods has largely stalled. Food corporations argue that consumer demand and tastes make it almost impossible. Sodium is used as a preservative and is often essential to a product’s flavor, and as a result, to its sales. Also, North Americans are more concerned with products that promote weight loss than reduced sodium.

Excess weight and inactivity are the major causes of high blood pressure, but high sodium levels also play a significant role. Patients with hypertension are advised to eat a low-sodium diet of about 1,500 mg a day.

North Americans ingest almost twice recommended amount

For average consumers, the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 mg daily—about one heaping teaspoon of salt. However, the average North American ingests over 4,000 mg a day, most of it from processed food and restaurant meals.

Due to the convenience and subsequent popularity of high-sodium, processed foods, the American Public Health Association urged food manufacturers to cut sodium levels in processed foods by half over the next 10 years. The APHA estimates the change could cut hypertension by 20%, and eventually save 150,000 lives a year.


1. Web site of the American Public Health Association www.apha.org Press Release: “APHA Urges Food Industry, Consumers and Public Health Community to Reduce Sodium in Diet,” 11.20.