Center for Science in the Public Interest Files Suit To Force FDA To Regulate Sodium in Processed Foods
The Center for Science in the Public Interest on Thursday filed a lawsuit to force FDA to regulate sodium in processed foods and revise sodium's "generally recognized as safe" classification, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Wolfe, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/25).
CSPI's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is intended to require FDA to classify sodium as a food additive, the same classification given to artificial sweeteners. FDA then could require warnings on food packages and salt disclosures on restaurant menus and issue mandatory or voluntary limits for sodium content (Lee, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 2/25).
A report released by CSPI on Thursday indicated that excessive consumption of salt causes about 150,000 premature deaths annually in the United States and recommended that Congress consider taxing foods with high salt levels. Sodium has been shown to increase the likelihood of hypertension, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/25).
In addition, U.S residents' sodium intake over the past 30 years has increased from an average of 2,700 milligrams daily to an average of 4,000 milligrams daily, according to CSPI (Burros, New York Times, 2/25). The Journal-Constitution reports that U.S. residents consume 75% of their salt intake from processed foods and restaurants, with only 10% coming from salt added at the table or in home cooking (Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 2/25).
"There is no way the FDA can look at the science and say with a straight face that salt is 'generally recognized as safe,'" CSPI General Director Michael Jacobson said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/25). Jacobson said policy makers need to "remember why every single edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans going back to 1980 has urged Americans to consume less salt" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/24).
FDA spokesperson Kathleen Quinn said the agency is "currently evaluating CSPI's report on salt, including the recommendations it contains."
Robert Earl, senior director of nutrition policy at the Food Products Association, said, "Rather than additional government requirements, what is needed is consumer education" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/25).
Grocery Manufacturers of America spokesperson Stephanie Childs said GMA agrees that sodium "is a concern" to Americans' health, but she added, "Finding the right substitute for sodium is going to take time" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/25).
The CSPI report is available online.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on recent research on sodium consumption. The segment includes comments from Robin Felder, professor of pathology at the University of Virginia; Jacobson; and Charles McCormick, professor of nutrition at Cornell University (Aubrey, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/25). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In other FDA news, a group of doctors organized as the Vitamin D Council on Thursday filed a complaint with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission alleging that FDA's food fortification policies discriminate against African Americans, the Times reports. Because it is more difficult for the bodies of dark-skinned people and people who are not regularly exposed to the sunlight to produce vitamin D, government guidelines recommend that these people consume foods such as vitamin-D-fortified milk.
But the Vitamin D Council alleges that many African Americans do not drink milk and calls on FDA to use more effective strategies to encourage fortification of other foods.
FDA spokesperson Brad Stone said, "We'll look at their concerns and their arguments very carefully" (New York Times, 2/25).