The discussion on imposing controls on salt content in food to reduce the rate of strokes and heart attacks surfaced again this week with the publication of a new study advocating for governments, rather than the food industry, to regulate salt levels.
In the study, Australian researchers measured the public health benefits and cost effectiveness of three different salt reduction strategies: dietary advice, voluntary incentives and mandatory limits. Results showed rates of heart disease and strokes fell by about 1 percent when food producers voluntarily reduced salt content in products, compared to an 18 percent decrease when governments imposed restrictions.
Although the current incentive-based programme is effective in encouraging Australian manufacturers to reduce salt in processed foods voluntarily, government intervention to make moderate salt limits mandatory for all manufacturers could achieve 20 times the health benefits for the Australian population.
Earlier this spring, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report recommended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration establish new standards for the amount of salt that food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service companies are allowed to add to their products. In the interim, IOM suggested the food and beverage industry pursue voluntary efforts to reduce sodium in products.
A recent Stanford study showed an industry-wide effort to curb salt in foods could prevent strokes and heart attacks in nearly a million Americans and save $32.1 billion in medical costs.