WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, released the following statement in response to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) examining the existing body of research linking sodium intake to health outcomes and confirming the need for Americans to reduce their consumption of sodium. In 2008, Harkin commissioned a study from the IOM—released in 2010—that looked at common-sense strategies for reducing dangerously high sodium levels in processed foods.
“The average American consumes roughly 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day—well above the recommended level of 2,300 milligrams per day. This is disturbing information in light of the fact that increased sodium intake is directly linked with high blood pressure and as the Institute of Medicine reaffirmed, increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” Harkin said. “Many processed foods are a major source of sodium, which is why I have supported efforts in Congress to reduce sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods, and have worked to make fresh foods more readily available to all Americans.”
Harkin has championed preventive healthcare initiatives throughout his career, including increased access to screenings for breast cancer and other diseases, the school fruit and vegetable pilot program, menu labeling in restaurants, and tobacco control. He recently reintroduced the HELP America Act, a provision of which would direct the FDA to develop two year targets for sodium reduction in packaged and restaurant foods. Recently, Harkin worked to make low-sodium soup available in the Senate dining facilities.
As HELP Committee Chairman, Harkin championed the prevention and wellness measures that are included in the Affordable Care Act. Preventive initiatives in doctors’ offices and the community help rein in costs across the full health care spectrum. The prevention and public health measures of the health reform law create incentives to prevent chronic disease, and require health insurance companies to cover recommended preventive screenings with no copays or deductibles.