To earn the status of “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, an item must have a history of safe food-use or must be scientifically proven as safe. This FDA classification allows manufacturers to use the ingredients freely, without having to provide new test results each time they include one in a product. The GRAS list currently includes several spices, sugar and salt. But that could be about to change. In a matter of months, salt may lose its “safe” status.
In late November, a number of consumer groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as well as the American Medical Association asked the FDA to consider stricter salt regulations. They want salt to be viewed as a food additive, thus subjecting it to use-limitations. If this happened, restaurants and processed-food manufacturers would have to adjust their recipes to comply with the FDA’s new standards. It seems like a big step, turning an item from safe to unsafe because Americans can’t seem to control themselves, but it might very well be worth it.
Each one of us consumes at least 1,000 extra milligrams of sodium a day. The majority of this comes from processed foods and restaurant meals. Therefore, a reduction in either’s salt content would spell a large reduction in our diet’s salt content. We would see less heart disease and hypertension, and 150,000 more people would live through the year. True, rather than creating mandatory rules, we could create voluntary guidelines, but let’s be honest. So far, voluntary has meant little more than “not going to happen”. If the FDA steps in, that would change. We’d be less salty and much healthier.