Salt and “GRAS”

- Mar• 05•12

Did you know that the manufacturing industry has the ability to add unlimited amounts of salt to any processed food?

Why? Because salt enjoys the status of “GRAS”, which stands for “generally regarded as safe”.” Even though it’s far from safe.

For nearly a decade, many scientists, physicians and health care professionals involved in disease prevention have appealed to our government to eliminate salt’s GRAS status. While the various governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations have issued guidelines regarding salt intake, the government has refused to remove the GRAS status for salt.

Does anybody really think the food industry should have this kind of latitude? Some scientists have gone as so far as to warning us that salt should be treated as Ppublic Eenemy Nnumber oneOne. Isn’t it high time that our government act on these appeals and strip salt of its GRAS status?

Let us see how removing salt from GRAS status will help us.

I often do the grocery shopping for our family. Other than in the produce aisle and the fresh meat section, it is next to impossible to find unsalted items. Many of the basic food items such as cereals, breads, meat preparations, cheeses and many yogurts popular with diet-conscious shoppers contain salt. The manufacturers even add salt to the baby cereals. We now know that the salt habit is created by feeding salted food to babies with salt. This is similar to the tobacco industry’s use of Camel ads in the past by the tobacco industry and is particularly dangerous for the long-term health of this country.

Consumers who don’t care about their health may add salt to anything they want to. But we should not allow the food manufacturers to predetermine at will how much salt they are going to add to our food, leaving us with no choice or say in the matter. If salt is removed from GRAS status this will change.

We already know that about 80 percent of the excess salt we consume comes from processed food sold in grocery stores. Since we have very little control over this, we need our government to help us. Removing salt from GRAS status will go a long way to allowing us to safeguard ourselves from the dangers of salt. Besides, what harm could come from curbing the processed food industry’s current unrestricted license to add as much salt as it wants to the foods it produces? Our government needs to act quickly to save us from the harm we’re inadvertently doing to ourselves every time we buy processed food.

The government inaction hurts us beyond the grocery stores. Try eating out. Sometimes that may be a luxury, but other times it can be a necessity. Finding low-salt options is not that easy. I was recently in a major city for a meeting that lasted four long days. During this stay, I ate at several restaurants. Sad to say, it was nearly impossible to find anything unsalted. When I requested unsalted versions of the menu, the most common answer I got was, ‘Oh, Chef has already added the salt into the sauces that are part of are mixed with the all dishes”. Only eggs Sunnyside up, some oatmeal preparations and fresh fruit came without any added salt.

It is sad to see diners with multiple health problems consuming restaurant dishes food that often contains an ungodly amount of salt. These people need help. Just requiring chefs to know that salt is not in the category of “generally regarded as safe” would make a big difference.

It is not just grocery shopping or eating out that is affected by this unrestricted license. Try travelling. As I was transiting through a major airport recently, there was a glimmer of hope. I came across a food stand right in the middle of the terminal specializing in various nuts. I had to wait in a long line, but the possibility of actually getting healthy, unsalted food was all the incentive I needed. It was right in the middle if the terminal with a long line. When my turn came, however, I was hugely disappointed. Despite a large variety of nuts in that store, there wasn’t a single unsalted option.

There are literally no unsalted eating choices for the millions of air travelers, let alone all those who end up spending a lot of time in the airports due to flight delays, cancellations etc. What a tragedy.

All this will change only if we can persuade our government to remove salt from GRAS status. What is there to lose? This action will not take away individual choice of eating as much salt as one desires. But the rest of us will have a better chance of eating and staying healthy.

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One Comment

  1. Vijay Chundi says:

    Thank you Dr. Neravetla!  Obviously we are a product of what we consume and you are helping to increase awareness of the dangers of salt consumption. However the corporations and PACs that controll policy and politicians won't just let this happen.  People have to have the desire to change thier lives and not live like lemmings.  It is our  choice.  Thank you once again for increasing our awareness of this simple solution of salt reduction.
    Vijay from Palm City, Florida

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