Opposing sides engage press in salt debate

WASHINGTON: Salt may soon become a new battleground for the food industry thanks to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

WASHINGTON: Salt may soon become a new battleground for the food industry thanks to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

CSPI held a Washington press conference late last month to unveil a new report on the dangers of salt and to announce a lawsuit filed to force the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate sodium in processed foods.

CSPI's actions received widespread coverage from the New York Times and CNN, among others.

"The report we issued and the lawsuit is the opening salvo in this effort," said Jeff Cronin, CSPI's director of communications. "It's something that has been left off FDA's front burner too long and we want to put it back on."

CSPI will try to hammer home a message about the health dangers of excessive salt consumption to regulators, consumers, and food companies, said Cronin.

The center wants salt content in processed foods regulated to prevent high blood pressure and heart problems.

The Salt Institute, which represents salt processors, responded to the CSPI attack with a statement from institute president Richard Hanneman questioning the validity of the CSPI research.

"CSPI's focus on whether the amount of salt we eat matters to our health is the right question. CSPI, however, has the wrong answer to the question," Hanneman wrote. The Institute wants to see clinical trials to determine the overall health impact of salt in a diet, contending it provides benefits.

"We don't intend to respond further to the CSPI study per se," Hanneman told PRWeek. "I will continue to speak out on dietary policy."

Food companies should "not focus on [a] rebuttal to CSPI, but should look at their marketing mix" and consider reformulating products with consumer health concerns in mind, said Bill Layden, EVP of Edelman's food and nutrition practice.

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