CEI Condemns Agency Plan to Restrict Salt Availability

Washington, D.C., November 29, 2011 – The Competitive Enterprise Institute today urged the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to reject proposals to regulate the amount of salt that may be added to packaged food products. Comprehensive studies on the health effects of sodium consumption show that restricting dietary sodium would have no beneficial effects for the vast majority of Americans, but could have serious negative heath effects for millions of consumers.

The FDA and USDA announced in September that they would consider regulating ordinary table salt as a food additive and then gradually reduce the amount of salt that may legally be added to processed foods. “Forty years’ worth of scientific research shows that Americans as a whole do not consume unhealthy levels of salt,” said CEI Senior Fellow Gregory Conko. “Decades of intensive study, most of it conducted or funded by government bodies, shows that as many consumers would be harmed by a forced reduction in salt as would be helped by it.”

In regulatory comments filed with the agencies today, CEI food safety experts explained that a recent review of 167 peer reviewed studies found that reducing salt consumption to the targeted levels lowered average systolic blood pressure in healthy individuals by just 1 point, and among those with high blood pressure by just 3.5 points. Other research shows that such small reductions in blood pressure are not big enough to affect heart or arterial disease risk, but that salt reductions can actually have negative effects on overall health for a large minority of consumers.

“Every individual is different. And those average results mask a troubling problem,” said Conko. “A small portion of consumers would benefit from eating less salt, but an equal number would actually be harmed by sodium reductions.” A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this year found that the third of subjects who consumed the least salt had three times the mortality risk as the third who consumed the most salt. “That suggests this effort to reduce everyone’s salt consumption is misguided at best and arguably quite dangerous for millions of Americans,” Conko added.

>> Read CEI’s full comments here.