March 10-16 Is World Salt Awareness Week

Posted on by CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

 

This blog was originally posted on CNN.com on January 23, 2014.

 

Grocery store

Almost two years ago, Philadelphia launched its Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative with the goal of reducing sodium content by 10% to 15%.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

The city’s Public Health Department worked with 206 restaurants, first evaluating their menus for sodium content and then helping them choose ingredients and develop recipes with less sodium. One way found to reduce sodium was for restaurants to cut the use of commercially prepared sauces and instead make their own.

After nine months, the initiative analyzed two popular dishes from 20 participating restaurants to see what changed. The result? A 20% reduction in sodium, more than the project’s goal.

It’s one thing to choose how much salt to add to your food when you eat. It’s another to live with decisions made by those who prepare your food before it makes it to the table.

It’s not a question of just putting down the salt shaker.

The vast majority of sodium consumed in the United States comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Americans eat out, on average, almost five times a week, and restaurant foods make up a surprisingly high percentage of sodium in the American diet.

On average, food from fast-food restaurants contains about 1,850 milligrams of sodium per 1,000 calories and food from sit-down restaurants has nearly 2,100 milligrams per 1,000 calories. Many restaurant meals have twice that many calories or more. 

Food nutrition labelU.S. dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day — and about six in 10 adults should further limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day. Excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease and stroke.

An article published in January by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “From Menu to Mouth: Opportunities for Sodium Reduction in Restaurants,” offers strategies that reduce sodium in restaurant food.

Restaurants can provide nutrition information at the point of purchase to give consumers the option to make healthier choices. They can also create group purchasing organizations to save on bulk purchases of lower-sodium ingredients.

Health departments can make dietitians available to assist restaurants with nutrition support.

It all boils down to: reduce, replace, reformulate. When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they use, the healthy choice becomes the easy one for the customer.

The story in Philadelphia shows it can be done.

The CDC collaborates with the food industry to reduce sodium in the food supply and provides technical assistance for this important work. We monitor programs to see what’s working in sodium reduction as well as broader blood pressure control initiatives through Million Hearts, the national public-private effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years. And we share that information through papers such as the one published Thursday.

Reducing sodium in restaurant and prepared foods isn’t about reducing choice — just the opposite. By reducing sodium in the foods you buy, companies put control into your hands. After all, it’s easy to add salt if you want to, but not to take it out if it’s there.

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One comment on “March 10-16 Is World Salt Awareness Week”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    In the run-up to the announcement of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the CDC sponsored an Institute of Medicine study of the Consequences of Sodium Reduction in Populations. The goal was to review all the scientific evidence that had been published in the last six years that cautioned against population-wide sodium reduction. Without going into the dynamics of interactions between the CDC and the IOM before and after this report was published, the final report, which cane out on May 14, 2013 was a reversal of the decade-long unreserved support for population-wide salt reduction.

    Yet, the CDC never refers to this critically important IOM report, which they, themselves, financed. Why?

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