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Doctors call on food companies and restaurants to curb use of salt.

The American Medical Association last week overwhelmingly agreed to back a campaign to halve the amount of sodium in restaurant and processed foods over the next 10 years. At the same time, the nation's largest doctors group urged FDA to revoke rules that have allowed sodium to go unregulated for decades. The rule has allowed salt and its component sodium to be treated as "generally recognized as safe."

The move by the AMA's 544-member House of Delegates to back revocation of the special status salt has enjoyed is similar to a petition filed last fall by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group, seeking to void the rule.

Americans consume about 4,000 milligrams to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day, and the resulting hypertension and cardiovascular disease costs the health-care system "tens of billions of dollars," AMA officials said. Dietary guidelines released last year set the maximum daily consumption of sodium at 2,300 milligrams, while 1,500 milligrams was set as the maximum for people with high blood pressure, blacks and middle-aged and older adults.

In response the AMA's recommendation that sodium in processed foods and restaurant meals be reduced and sodium labeling requirements on food packages be changed, Robert Earl, MPH, RD, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy for the Food Products Association (FPA), made the following comments: "Salt is a food ingredient that is 'generally recognized as safe,' or GRAS, by the Food and Drug Administration and has been in use in food preparation for millennia for purposes of taste and food preservation. Salt also is naturally occurring in many foods...Many food companies are working on ways to reformulate products or reduce the use of sodium in processed foods. Various new techniques in canning and freezing have reduced the amount of sodium needed. However, reduced sodium products must appeal to consumers--which is not a simple task. Also, sodium often plays an important role in food preservation, and there can be no compromising food safety simply to reduce a food product's sodium content.

In related AMA news, the Association passed new policy to end alcohol advertising during college sports broadcasts and to work with the NCAA and college athletic conferences as they negotiate broadcast rights contracts. "Promoting alcohol use to young adults is irresponsible," said AMA Board Member J. James Rohack, MD. "Eliminating these ads during college sports broadcasts is a step toward fighting the increasing alcohol usage among this age group.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Jun 19, 2006
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