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"If it says natural, I expect it to be all natural -- nothing but chicken," he said.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer weighed in on the issue earlier this year, calling in a press conference for the USDA to "immediately prevent sodium injected chicken from using the 'natural' label and require all poultry producers to identify added ingredients in print large enough to ensure that consumers can make informed choices."
The issue is worrisome because Americans generally eat far too much salt, with serious health consequences, said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Her research, published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that regulations aimed at cutting back Americans' sodium intake could save $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs, and thousands of lives, every year.
Government intervention is needed, Bibbins-Domingo said, because much of the salt people eat comes in prepared food, not out of a salt shaker.
"We have to educate people to read labels and make better choices," she said. "When there are foods that people consider to be fresh and without additives, and they also have salt added, you feel you are almost fighting a losing battle."
In a report issued this year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which advises the federal government, revised the recommended daily salt intake from a teaspoon a day to about two-thirds of a teaspoon. It pointed to meat with added salt as a particular problem.
Foster Farms, based in Livingston, Calif., has been at the forefront of the campaign to change labeling rules.
The company sells marinated products that have added salt -- but it is clear to consumers, said company spokesman Ira Brill. The problem with injection is the customer can't tell what's in their chicken.
"One of the issues we face as a nation is how to eat healthy," Brill said. "To the degree you like salt, you should be able to add it. But you should be able to make that decision for yourself. "
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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