CBS 'Early Show' Touts Government Regulation of Salt

Maggie Rodriguez and Jennifer Ashton, CBS At the top of Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez proclaimed: "the truth about salt, why a new report wants the government to take salt off the table." She later introduced a segment on the topic by explaining: "Americans eat about 1 ½ tablespoons of salt every day....there's a major new push this morning to curb that habit."

Rodriguez spoke with CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton about the government intrusion and noted that there was "confusion" over "reports that the FDA might regulate salt." Ashton claimed: "there was a fair amount of misinterpretation of yesterday's news....the Institute of Medicine approached the FDA and asked for their assistance in working in conjunction with the food industry and other health services to help increase awareness about salt intake and hopefully, in the future, reduce the consumption of salt that Americans have."

However, near the end of the segment, after Ashton detailed the negative health effects of too much salt, Rodriguez observed: "So then there maybe is an argument for someone getting involved in making these companies put less sodium in their foods." Ashton agreed: "Exactly. And so we're going to be seeing more of that more aggressively from the government in the future."

Mid-way through the segment, Rodriguez asked if the Food and Drug Administration would actually regulate salt at some point, Ashton responded: "there is no plan to make salt a banned substance right now....this really was a shot across the bow from the Institute of Medicine....Now we need to bring in the big guns and really increase awareness and make this a priority."

Rodriguez followed up: "And why would the big guns, why would the FDA regulate salt?" Ashton explained: "the New England Journal of Medicine....by reducing the salt intake about one teaspoon a day for an average American, 150,000 lives can be saved a year."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: And the truth about salt, why a new report wants the government to take salt off the table.

7:14AM SEGMENT:

RODRIGUEZ: There have been some conflicting reports about how much salt should be in your diet. Americans eat about 1 ½ tablespoons of salt every day. That's more than double what we need for good health. And there's a major new push this morning to curb that habit. Here to hopefully help us clear up the confusion is our own Dr. Jennifer Ashton. Good morning, doctor.

JENNIFER ASHTON: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: This confusion stems from a report that came out yesterday about salt intake, and then reports that the FDA might regulate salt. What exactly is the FDA saying about salt?

ASHTON: So there was a fair amount of misinterpretation of yesterday's news, Maggie. What happened yesterday is that the Institute of Medicine approached the FDA and asked for their assistance in working in conjunction with the food industry and other health services to help increase awareness about salt intake and hopefully, in the future, reduce the consumption of salt that Americans have. Because, as you said, we're getting way too much and we're definitely seeing the health consequences.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Shake the Habit; Gov't Push to Curb Salt Intake]

RODRIGUEZ: So is the FDA planning, as of right now, to regulate salt?

ASHTON: No. At this time there is no plan to make salt a banned substance right now. But, again, I think this really was a shot across the bow from the Institute of Medicine to really say, look, we've been trying to do this ourselves for awhile. Now we need to bring in the big guns and really increase awareness and make this a priority.

RODRIGUEZ: And why would the big guns, why would the FDA regulate salt?

ASHTON: Well look, we've known for over 40 years that salt has been casually tied, or directly tied even, to things like heart attacks and strokes. But recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, they put some hard numbers to those estimates, and found that by reducing the salt intake about one teaspoon a day for an average American, 150,000 lives can be saved a year. And again, that's due to things like heart attacks and strokes. So when you see a number like that, you really have to sit up and take notice.

RODRIGUEZ: Why is our salt intake so high? Is it because we're just too heavy-handed with the salt shaker?

ASHTON: Well, you know, a lot of people say, 'I don't add salt to my food, so this doesn't apply to me.' And in reality, over 75% of our daily salt consumption comes in hidden forms. It comes in processed foods. It comes in things that you might not expect, like bread or cereal. Something like cottage cheese can have a lot of it. Only about 25% of our daily salt intake is with a salt shaker when we're eating or when we're preparing meals. So you have to read the labels, and everyone, but especially those people who have things like diabetes, high blood pressure, African-Americans, are at much higher risks for the consequences of hypertension.

RODRIGUEZ: So then there maybe is an argument for someone getting involved in making these companies put less sodium in their foods.

ASHTON: Exactly. And so we're going to be seeing more of that more aggressively from the government in the future.

RODRIGUEZ: Dr. Jennifer Ashton, thanks so much.

ASHTON: You bet.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC