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Stop Dumping Salt All Over Everything, Says FDA

The FDA's new salt consumption guidelines are here, and they urge us to seriously scale back on sodium.
Photo via Flickr user Kevin Harber

We may like highfalutin foie gras deconstructions and ambitious ramp foams, but really our tastes our pretty simple. We love salt and fat—they make things taste good. Food manufacturers and chefs know it, and they throw in salt and butter by the fistful.

But sadly, salt isn't so great for your health. As most of us know, too much sodium raises blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke. Health agencies have been taking aim at salt for some time; New York recently required restaurants to label high-sodium dishes, and now, the Food and Drug Administration is getting in on the action and is taking the war on salt national.


On Wednesday, the FDA issued new preliminary guidelines as part of an effort to cut back on the hefty amount of the white stuff Americans eat on a daily basis. Ultimately, the FDA hopes to cut the amount of salt an adult consumes daily by a third, from 3,400 to 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon of salt a day. The 3,400 milligrams that the average American currently eats on a daily basis is about 50 percent more sodium than the amount recommended by doctors. Consider that a simple salt rim on a margarita might be more than your daily recommended maximum of salt, and you'll get the idea of how much sodium you might be wolfing down on a daily basis.

READ MORE: Salty Dishes in New York Will Now Have Warning Labels

Reuters reports that companies like Campbell Soup, General Mills, and Kraft Heinz have already cut back on the amount of salt in some of their products in anticipation of the announcement. The FDA says it worked with the public and companies in the food industry to develop the guidelines, but some in the food industry are poised to challenge the new recommendations, which come just weeks after the FDA introduced new nutrition facts labels that emphasize caloric content, added sugar, and serving sizes.

Photo via Flickr user kanaka

Would you like some nachos with that salt? Photo via Flickr user kanaka

"Like others inside and outside of government, we believe additional work is needed to determine the acceptable range of sodium intake for optimal health," the chief science officer at the lobbying group Grocery Manufacturers Association, Leon Bruner, told Reuters.

The FDA pointed to salad dressing as one food item that can have hugely variable amounts of salt. Some salad dressings had just 150 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams, while others had more than a staggering 2,000 milligrams. Rather than present consumers with a product chock full of salt up front, the FDA wants consumers to add salt to a dish if they feel like it needs it.

READ MORE: Salt Is a Secret Weapon

The FDA hopes to bring down sodium intake in two stages, with one goal set for two years from now and another target to be met in ten years. The guidelines aren't requirements, and it's ultimately up to consumers to decide what they will cram in their faces, though experts are optimistic that the guidelines are likely to bring down salt intake on a broad scale.

That said, restaurants have tried to introduce healthier items in the past, but when the decision comes down to a lightly dressed garden salad or piled-high nachos, for many, the choice is clear.