The Impact of State and Local Sodium Reduction Laws
by Katherine Bishop Kendrick
Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods, not the salt we add in our home cooking. It’s easy to consume much more than the recommended amounts because we don’t have control over the sodium in many of our foods. Since sodium is “hidden” within our diets, addressing sodium intake at the individual level can be difficult.
Nearly half (48%) of American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, and this rate is even higher in African American communities. We know that one important way to help people consume less sodium is to put laws and regulation in place that inspire industry innovation and help people reduce their sodium intake. Excessive sodium consumption is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. If we can reduce the sodium in the foods people are regularly consuming or help people identify healthier foods, this can help reduce intake.
“Mapping and Analysis of US State and Urban Local Sodium Reduction Laws” is an important benchmark for determining how many sodium reduction laws are in place, which areas of the country have better sodium reduction coverage, and where there are efforts to restrict the ability of local governments to improve the health of their citizens. Unfortunately, the study found that only 27 of the 90 jurisdictions studied had at least one sodium reduction law in place and that 10 of the state laws identified prevent local governments from being able to enact laws to help their citizens access and identify lower sodium foods. Half of the laws preventing local government from enacting sodium reduction laws are in the South where there is greater incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This area of the country comprises the stroke belt.
More states and localities need to enact policies that support their citizens’ ability to eat healthfully. We also need states to stop preventing localities from passing laws that protect their citizens. We need to evaluate the laws that are in place to see if they are having an impact on people’s sodium intake. The laws that are having the most impact should be replicated in more jurisdictions. Hopefully, this research can be repeated in future years and it will show that more sodium reduction laws have been enacted and that they are reducing sodium intake across the US population.
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Katherine Bishop Kendrick is a Senior Policy Analyst and the Healthy Eating Strategic Policy Lead at the American Heart Association. As a Policy Analyst, she manages that healthy eating portfolio for the Policy Research Team. As Healthy Eating Strategic Policy Lead, she leads a matrix team and oversees the strategic vision for the Association’s healthy eating policy priorities. (Photo by Saintelmophotography.com.)