Earlier this week, the Institute of Medicine released a report recommending enforceable sodium standards on the nation's food suppliers as a way to curb heart disease fatalities. The FDA claims to be examining practical means of implementation.
The National Restaurant Association released a statement in response, calling for a voluntary and incremental approach to such reductions. "The industry â€¦ would have concerns about any potential government mandate that creates a one-size-fits-all rule to ingredient standards or sets arbitrary per-item limits that do not reflect the complexity of addressing the nations eating habits and improving overall wellness," Scott DeFife, Executive Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, said in a statement.
Pizza operators reflected the same wariness to possible sweeping legislation. Many are loathe to comment on the volatile news, preferring instead a "wait and see" approach and allowing the National Restaurant Association's statement speak for them. That's the case with Jenny Fourace, director of public affairs for Domino's. Fouracre said the company doesn't have an official stance on the subject, but said the company might be wary of a one-size-fits all, "willy nilly" approach to sodium reduction in an industry that already has options for the health-conscious.
"At Domino's there are 34 million ways to order a pizza," she said. "You have a lot of options if you're concerned with sodium or fat; there's an option that will meet your needs."
But beyond the possibility of costly and overzealous effects on the restaurant industry, some say imposing salt limits could do more harm than good to health.
The IOM report said too much sodium increases risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, and ultimately predicted that slashing salt could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually.
Some disagree that that's "sound medicine."
Dr. Michael Alderman, a hypertension specialist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has been quoted lately in many papers covering the recently vamped-up war on salt. Alderman said a randomized clinical trail is needed to determine the effect of reducing sodium intake on the length and quality of life. At this point, he says, there's no proof that it couldn't be detrimental.
"In careful studies of response to sodium reduction, most people have no change in blood pressure, while perhaps a quarter to a third have a significant fall," he said. "And, importantly, something like 10 percent have an equivalent rise in pressure."
Further, he said, salt reduction can also increase resistance to insulin and other hormones, which can damage cardiovascular health.
"Thus," he said, "the health effect of reducing sodium will be the net of these conflicting effects."