CSPI Estimates 400,000 Preventable Deaths from Excess Salt Since 2010

New Counter Tallies Salt's Deadly Toll

April 21, 2014

Four years ago yesterday the Institute of Medicine called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set limits on the levels of sodium (mostly from salt) allowed in various categories of processed food. But because the FDA has not acted on the IOM's recommendations, every year tens of thousands of Americans prematurely fall victim to strokes, heart attacks, or other health problems caused or exacerbated by excess sodium intake, says the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. Epidemiologists have estimated that if Americans had cut their sodium intake in half beginning in April 2010, as many as 400,000 lives might have been saved in the years since.

CSPI now has an ongoing counter displaying the number of Americans that have died from salt-related diseases at cspinet.org/salt.

"FDA would probably act in a heartbeat if experts found that an unsafe drug or medical device was responsible for 100,000 deaths a year, but it is tolerating a deadly level of sodium in our food supply," said CSPI health promotion policy director Jim O’Hara. "While this Administration talks about the need for healthy eating, it is failing to pursue a policy that would create a food environment in which Americans could routinely make healthier choices."

Americans consume on average about 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day, and more than three-quarters of that comes from processed and restaurant food, not from the salt shaker. While healthy young people should generally limit themselves to 2,300 mg of sodium, a majority of the population, including people 51 and older, people with high blood pressure, and African-Americans, should try to limit themselves to 1,500 mg.

In 2005 CSPI formally petitioned the FDA to set limits on sodium levels and to adopt 1,500 mg as the Daily Value for sodium on Nutrition Facts labels, as opposed to the current DV of 2,300 mg.


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