CECHE JOINS CSPI IN A CAMPAIGN FOR HEALTHY HEARTS
In 2004, the Center for Science in Public Assistance (CSPI) with CECHE support stepped into that vacuum and is working with CVD experts to advocate policy changes to reduce CVD. Our first efforts have been to pursue a ban of trans fat – a metabolic poison – in the American food supply and to press for a reduction in the level of sodium in prepared and processed foods. These two measures alone could save 150,000 lives from CVD. The following provides an update on our progress in 2005.
A 10-year effort by CSPI culminated in 2003 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require labeling of artery-clogging trans fat on Nutrition Facts labels by January 2006. While that is a step in the right direction, the project is pressing for a full ban of trans fat. The project accomplished the following during 2005:
Found in every kitchen, restaurant, and food-production facility in the country, salt may well be the most dangerous food ingredient of all. Eating too much salt raises blood pressure which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Beginning 25 years ago, CSPI pressured the FDA to require better labeling of sodium. But even with labeling now on all food packages, sodium consumption remains at a dangerously high level. This year, in an effort to press for a reduction in salt levels in the American food supply, the project undertook the following:
More recently, the partners have expanded their healthy hearts campaign through outreach to physician networks, pressing Congress to correct governmental failures to lower sodium content in foods, investigating labeling initiatives to support consumer interests, and assessing recommended diets by the nation’s leading heart disease prevention advocates.
Regarding trans fats, CSPI is enhancing its campaign to press the food industry to voluntarily switch to liquid oils like soy, canola and corn, and not to substitute butter, palm oil and other artery-clogging fats. It is also generating congressional pressure to persuade the FDA to take regulatory actions to reduce trans-fat consumption, and is working at the city and state levels to limit amounts of trans fat in schools and government facilities. (So far, the boards of health in New York City, Philadelphia, Brookline (MA), and Montgomery County (MD) have banned trans fat in restaurants, and other states and cities are considering similar measures).
On the salt reduction front, CSPI’s July 2006 letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to take specific steps to lower the salt content in foods was co-signed by 21 respected physicians and public health experts. (That letter followed CSPI’s November 2005 petition to set ceilings on the amount of sodium in processed foods, to require a health warning on packaged salt, and to reduce the daily value for sodium.)
The partners work closely with World Action on Salt and Health, an international coalition of medical experts who have joined forces to launch a global campaign against salt. CSPI also has enlisted the support of national professional associations, such as the American College of Cardiology, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Medical Association (NMA). And at CSPI’s urging, the American Medical Association passed a resolution emphasizing the need to achieve 50 percent sodium reductions for processed and restaurant foods and urging the FDA to revoke the “generally regarded as safe,” or GRAS status, of salt.
In July 2007, several health care organizations, including the APHA, NMA and the National Hypertension Association, co-signed a letter with CSPI to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, urging him to hold a hearing on salt reduction in the American diet.
Most recently, CSPI co-sponsored a major conference with the largest U.S. food-industry trade association. At the meeting, health advocates and industry representatives explored ways to reduce sodium in packaged and prepared foods, and laid the groundwork for further efforts to reduce sodium and improve the healthfulness of the food supply. Perhaps in response, a long-overdue hearing on sodium reduction was held by the FDA in November 2007.
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