Target: Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden
Goal: Thank the CDC for its important study on high levels of sodium in meals marketed to toddlers, and for its efforts to reduce elevated sodium intake for children
A recent study conducted by a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has revealed that nearly 75 percent of packaged foods marketed towards toddlers contained dangerously high levels of sodium. The study examined 1,115 different ready-to-eat, mostly microwaveable toddler meals, classifying any with over 210 milligrams of sodium as having a “high salt content. This cutoff was reached due to the assumption that most toddlers would consume approximately seven servings from various other food groups throughout the day, and 210 milligrams is about one seventh of the recommended daily intake of sodium for small children as outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While most packaged meals marketed towards toddlers were found to have about 400 to 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, some contained as much as 630 milligrams of sodium for a single serving. These high levels of salt are concerning for a number of reasons, including an increased risk for high blood pressure and hypertension, both of which could potentially lead to heart disease later in life. In fact, a second study found that in 2010, about 2.3 million people globally died from diseases connected with elevated sodium intake.
One major concern researchers expressed about the high levels of sodium in packaged toddler meals was that children could develop a taste for salt later in life. Joyce Maalouf, head author of the study, stated that, “children are not born with a taste for salt,” and for them to continuously eat foods with sodium-altered flavor can increase their appetite for similar foods throughout their life. Furthermore, Maalouf asserts that these high levels of salt are found not only in snacks and “junk-food,” but also in foods marketed as “healthy” as well, including pasta and chicken. While it is ultimately a parent or guardian’s responsibility to carefully check nutrition labels, some have called for greater action. According to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and researcher, “the burden for change lies with the government and with the food industry.” Furthermore, he states that there should be policies that monitor how much sodium is allowed in the production of food.
Currently, the CDC is working to spread awareness about the risks involved with too much sodium intake, partially through the presentation of its study on sodium in packaged toddler foods at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans. Furthermore, the organization has worked to “promote local and state-sponsored sodium reduction plans” and to pressure manufacturers to reduce sodium levels in their products to meet specific guidelines. Thank the CDC for its important study on the dangerously high levels of sodium in packaged food marketed towards toddlers, as well as its efforts to bring these levels down and increase awareness concerning the risks associated with elevated salt intake
Dear Tom Frieden,
The recent study by fellows at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that helped shed light on the unsafe levels of sodium in packaged meals marketed towards toddlers provides important information on children’s overall health. Not only has this study helped to increase awareness about specific levels of salt in children’s food, as well as the risks for increased blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease that are associated with elevated sodium intake, but it has also helped prompt a call to action. Studies such as these can lead to increased pressure by consumers on food manufacturers and government agencies responsible for food regulation to make changes in the way food is produced. These are important steps in promoting overall human health, not just for children but adults as well.
Thank you for your continued efforts to raise awareness concerning high levels of sodium in packaged toddler foods, as well as attempts to reduce these levels through local and state initiatives. By doing so, the CDC sets a standard for other agencies to follow in aiming towards improving the health of American citizens.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia