December 4, 2008

Report: Industry not lowering salt in food

The average sodium content of 528 U.S. packaged and restaurant foods increased by less than 1 percent from 2005 to 2008, non-profit officials said.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said that considering the food industry's acknowledgment that sodium levels are too high, the lack of progress in decreasing the sodium content of many foods is disturbing.

The medical community has long agreed that diets high in sodium are a major cause of strokes and heart attacks, Jacobson said.

For some products, the spikes in sodium content are alarming: Hardee's french fries, for instance, contain three times as much sodium as they did in 2005. Wal-Mart's cream cheese nearly doubled in sodium, Jacobson said in a statement.

Jimmy Dean's Regular Premium Pork Sausage, salty enough in 2005 with 280 milligrams of sodium per serving, has 60 percent more in 2008.

The CSPI report on 528 packaged and restaurant foods found that some 100 products increased sodium content by 5 percent or more and 29 products increased by 30 percent or more. However, sodium in 114 products declined by 5 percent or more and 18 products declined by 30 percent or more, while the rest remained about the same, the report said.

The food industry is knowingly overusing a chemical that can cause crippling disease or early death, Jacobson said.