By Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is pressuring the food industry to make foods from breads to sliced turkey less salty, proposing long-awaited sodium guidelines in an effort to prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke.
The guidelines released Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration are voluntary, so food companies won’t be required to comply, and it could be a year or more before they are final. But the idea is to persuade companies and restaurants — many of which have already lowered sodium levels in their products — to take a more consistent approach.
It’s the first time the government has recommended such limits. Sodium content already is included on existing food labels, but the government has not set specific sodium recommendations. The guidelines suggest limits for about 150 categories of foods, from cereals to pizzas and sandwiches. There are two-year and 10-year goals.
Health officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said overwhelming scientific evidence shows that blood pressure increases when sodium intake increases, increasing the chances of heart disease and stroke. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that many people may not be conscious of how much sodium they are eating until they get sick.
“Our great hope is that this will initiate a very serious national dialogue,” he said.
Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily, or 3,400 milligrams. That amount hasn’t gone down over the years, and it’s about…