The Food Products Association (FPA) has stated that consumer education is a better control than government requirements regarding salt levels and labelling in processed food products in the US.

The food and beverages association was responding to the American Medical Association's recommendation that salt in processed foods and restaurant meals be reduced, and that sodium labelling requirements on food packages be changed.

FPA senior director of nutrition policy Robert Earl said: "Rather than additional government requirements, what is needed is consumer education. For example, advice on sodium consumption can be found in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

The FPA noted that salt is a food ingredient that is 'generally recognised as safe,' by the Food and Drug Administration and has long been in use in food for purposes of taste and food preservation, as well as being naturally occurring.

Earl continued: "FDA's Daily Value of 2400 milligrams provides a target for individuals in making personal food choices. Factors such as age, activity level, health status and climate will affect the requirements, needs and uses for sodium in each individual's diet.

"Many food companies are working on ways to reformulate products or reduce the use of sodium in processed foods. Various new techniques in canning and freezing have reduced the amount of sodium needed. However, reduced sodium products must appeal to consumers - which is not a simple task. Also, sodium often plays an important role in food preservation, and there can be no compromising food safety simply to reduce a food product's sodium content.

"It is important for consumers to know that the amount of sodium in foods is clearly labelled on food packaging, and that a broad range of foods containing no sodium or low sodium, or with no added salt, are widely available. This broad range of food products on the market - coupled with the information contained on the Nutrition Facts panel and food labels - are critical components that enable consumers to choose food products that are appropriate for their dietary needs."