New guidelines encourage food makers to reduce salt

- High blood pressure affects 70 million Americans - one in three adults, one half of African Americans, and one in 10 children. In an effort to decrease those numbers, the Food and Drug Administration is releasing new draft guidelines aimed at reducing salt in commercially processed, packaged and prepared foods. 

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease, and the FDA said research shows reducing dietary sodium can also reduce blood pressure. 

It also said most people get an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. That's about 1,000 milligrams more than the recommended 2,300 mg amount for most healthy people. That number drops in people with existing hypertension or other medical conditions. 

About 75-percent of the sodium consumed comes from packaged or commercially prepared food prepared outside the home. The hope is that food manufacturers and restaurants will adopt voluntary standards.  The gradual implementation includes both two- and 10-year target goals.

To make it uniform across the board, the FDA created a list of 147 food categories including things like bean dips, tacos, deli meats, bread, cereals, cheese, pizza, even olives.

Those categories determine the sodium target range particular products should try to achieve. 

The categories are meant to help differentiate between foods with naturally occurring sodium or products with sodium added for more than just taste. Sodium is sometimes used for leavening, texture, or for safety reasons to prevent microbial growth. 

The FDA hopes, over time, if enough manufacturers follow the guidelines, it will make it easier for Americans to lower their salt intake.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a media briefing Wednesday, one salty product - pretzels - has already met the short term goals. He also said the voluntary system is working in other countries like the United Kingdom, and that benefits may be achieved with even a modest 15-percent reduction in sodium.

The draft guidance states in the U.S., over 25 companies, and restaurants have committed to sodium reductions in some of their products. 

An open comment period is now open. Depending on the topic, it will stay open from 90 - 150 days.

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