The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to compel the agency to act on the advocacy group’s 2005 citizen petition requesting regulations about the use of salt as a food additive. Ctr. for Sci. in Pub. Interest v. FDA, No. 15-1651 (D.D.C., filed October 8, 2015).

The petition called for FDA to revoke salt’s status as generally recognized as safe, amend prior approvals of salt use, require food manufacturers to reduce sodium levels in processed foods, and mandate labeling messages about the health effects of salt in foods containing more than half an ounce of the substance. The complaint alleges that while “[n]early all Americans consume more sodium than is safe,” “[c]onsumers can exert relatively little control over their sodium intake by adjusting discretionary use of salt” because such use amounts to only 5 to 10 percent of consumption; instead, the majority of the average American’s salt intake is consumed via processed foods and restaurant food, CSPI argues. The organization asserts that the use of salt in food has resulted in “widespread” hypertension and pre-hypertension diagnoses.

Since CSPI filed its petition, FDA has held a public hearing and multiple comment periods about the use of salt and effects of sodium on health but has not issued any guidance or regulations, the complaint says. “For more than 35 years, FDA has dragged its feet and refused to do anything to protect Americans from excess sodium in the food supply,” CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said in an October 8, 2015, press release. “The government’s inaction condemns hundreds of thousands of Americans to early deaths due to preventable strokes and heart attacks.”