AMA Recommends Salt Warning Labels

A new report by the American Medical Association says Americans are eating too much salt. The nation's largest group of doctors wants to reverse this trend and they've issued several recommendations to reach their goal.

As Dr. Emily Senay reports, the AMA wants the U.S. food industry to reduce the amount of sodium in processed and restaurant foods. They are also encouraging the FDA to develop warning labels for high sodium foods such as hot dogs and some canned soups.

"The AMA is the largest body of doctors in the country. Their meeting has just ended. They called on some pretty serious changes they'd like to see to help Americans reduce the amount of salt they're consuming. This is really public health measures," Senay explains. "The first thing they want to see happen is a reduction by 50 percent over the next decade of sodium in processed and restaurant foods. That's not just fast foods."

The AMA wants the FDA to encourage warning labels for high sodium foods; one idea would be a logo with a salt shaker and an exclamation point so consumers can easily identify those foods that are too high in salt.

"They want the FDA to revoke the generally recognized as safe status of salt. Other products that are generally recognized as safe include things like pepper and sugar. So they want to see some pretty big moves to help Americans get control of salt consumption," says Senay.

How do you know if there's too much sodium in your food, since its not always easy to spot?

Senay says the AMA gave some examples of some commonly used foods that would contain 480 milligrams or more of salt per serving. These hot dogs, cheeseburgers, some canned soups, a slice of pepperoni pizza, chicken Chow Mein.

"Most Americans eat two teaspoons of salt or day or more than that. We only need a teaspoon of salt a day. We are way out of control on our salt consumption," she explains.

The AMA report also singles restaurants – but not just fast food eateries. "Unless you realize it, in the back the chef is adding, in many cases, up to a teaspoon of salt per entrée," Senay says. "This is something we can do something about right now. We can just request that they not do that. Find out how much salt they were going to add and say, 'Please don't add it.' So that's something we can get a handle on right now."

Why is salt so bad for us?

"Thirty percent of Americans have high blood pressure. We know that high blood pressure is linked to cardiovascular disease. It's the number one killer. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that sodium is partially to blame for this," Senay explains.

"We know, if we reduce sodium and add a lot of fresh fruits and veggies to a diet, we can reduce blood pressure without medications. The evidence is there that this would be a major benefit to the high blood pressure epidemic that's going on," she adds.

Asked what the food industry is saying about the AMA recommendations, Senay said, "The Food Products Association says there's no definitive link between salt and cardiovascular disease. And most foods are already labeled so consumers can make a positive decision about food choices."