The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

New York City to Nudge Food Companies to Lower Salt Nationwide

CSPI Praises Move and Urges Industry to Cooperate


The single most dangerous ingredient in the food supply is salt,
according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which today
praised New York City
health officials for pressuring food companies to reduce salt levels in
packaged foods and restaurant meals by 25 percent over the next five
years. CSPI called New York's program "smart, sophisticated, and

Too much salt
in the diet is a major contributor to hypertension, stroke, heart and
kidney disease, and other ailments. Starting in 1978, CSPI has been
urging the Food and Drug Administration to use its regulatory authority
to treat salt, or sodium chloride, as a food additive, as opposed to
classifying it as an ingredient that is "generally recognized as safe,"
or GRAS. CSPI filed lawsuits against the FDA in 1982 and in 2005 to try
to compel it to take action, and later in 2005
filed a regulatory petition which asked the agency to set maximum
levels of salt in various categories of food. The agency held a public hearing in 2007 but hasn't taken any action since.

sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods could save thousands of
lives a year in New York City alone," said CSPI executive director
Michael F. Jacobson. "Food companies should cooperate with New York
City authorities and set achievable targets to reduce salt nationwide.
If companies don't cooperate, they can certainly expect other state and
local governments, and perhaps at long last, the Food and Drug
Administration, to begin regulating in this area."

Seventy percent of the population--a group that includes the
elderly, African Americans, and people with existing high blood
pressure--should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per
day, according to the federal government. Everyone else should limit
themselves to 2,300 mg per day. But according to CSPI, average sodium
intake is actually north of 4,000 mg per day. In May CSPI identified a
number of popular chain restaurant meals that provide 5,000, 6,000, or 7,000 mg of sodium.

sodium by 25 percent over the next 5 years could also save the federal
government billions in direct medical expenditures, according to CSPI.

New York City similarly helped spur nationwide changes in the food industry when it became the first jurisdiction to require calories on chain restaurant menus, and to phase out the use of artificial trans fats in all restaurants.

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.