The comments from health officials came in response to the FDA's request for public input on a petition filed by the CSPI urging the agency to revise its "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS, status of salt and to limit sodium levels in various food categories.
Among those commenting was Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the commissioner of public health in Los Angeles County. He said diagnoses of high blood pressure in his county increased from 18 percent in 1997 to 25 percent in 2005.
"Action by the FDA and others is urgently needed to prevent unnecessary deaths and illnesses due to excessive salt in our diet," said Fielding. "We strongly urge that the FDA remove salt from the GRAS list and support efforts to implement a national program to reduce salt consumption."
Chicago's commissioner of health, Dr. Terry Mason, said he supports a 50-percent reduction in sodium during the next 10 years, including development of a mandatory national warning label system to inform consumers of high sodium content foods.