Statement of CSPI Health Promotion Policy Director Jim O’Hara

Almost 90 percent of adult Americans consume too much salt, the main source of sodium in our diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increasing our risk of elevated blood pressure leading to heart attack and stroke.  More than three-quarters of that sodium is already in packaged and restaurant foods before they reach consumers. Most importantly, today’s announcement shows the potential for real progress in Americans’ health if the Food and Drug Administration quickly finalizes its recently released voluntary targets for reducing sodium in all foods.

In 2009, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—a perennial leader in public health initiatives— launched the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a coalition of more than 100 national health organizations and state and local health departments.  The NSRI worked with industry to set 2012 and 2014 targets for sodium reduction in categories of packaged and restaurant foods, with a goal of a 25 percent reduction by 2014.

In an article published today in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers report that by 2014, 26 percent of packaged food categories had met 2012 targets and only three percent met the 2014 targets.  Still, the overall reduction of sodium amounted to 6.8 per cent.

The NSRI was the first national effort at salt reduction, and it shows what can be accomplished.  But the FDA has the potential to achieve even greater cuts in sodium and greater protection for the public’s health.