Today’s Headlines: New Salt Guidelines in Processed Foods, the Added Calories in Fast Casual Dining, and Updated Zika Virus Guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making moves to try and lower sodium consumption in America. The federal agency is setting new standards calling for a cutback on salt in packaged and processed foods. “More than 70 percent of the sodium consumed in this country is already in food before it reaches the table, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…The guidelines are sweeping and set targets for the gradual reduction in sodium in the majority of processed and prepared foods — about 150 categories, including pizza, deli meats, canned soup, snacks, breads and rolls. The reductions would be two-phased, cutting sodium over two years and over 10 years. If the food industry adjusts sodium levels based on the F.D.A.’s targets, the agency said it expected consumption to drop to 3,000 milligrams a day in two years and 2,300 in 10 years.” Sodium can cause high blood pressure which can lead to other, more serious health issues and the FDA is optimistic that these guidelines will help the health of the American population as a whole. (NYT)

There may be more calories in your Chipotle meal than a McDonald’s order. New research has shown that fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle, may contain more calories in their meals than fast food restaurants. “The researchers examined the calorie counts of 3,193 entrees sold at restaurants representing 24 different fast food chains and 28 fast-casual chains, according to the report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They found the average fast-casual entree had about 760 calories compared to the typical fast food entree with about 560 calories. Schoffman said the study team was surprised by the overall results and by finding a greater proportion of fast casual restaurant entrees exceeded the median of 640 calories.” The study noted, however, that it only looked at calorie counts and not nutritional value as well. The researchers hypothesized that even though many fast casual restaurants have more calories, they are actually bigger portions with generally healthier ingredients. Customers should pay attention to what ingredients they’re ordering, in addition to calorie counts, to make sure they are making a healthy choice. (Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its preventative guidelines for the Zika virus. Sexual transmission of the virus is possible and the WHO wants to ensure sexually-active people are taking the right steps to prevent themselves from infection. “The WHO advised couples to use barrier contraception or abstain from sexual contact for at least eight weeks after returning from an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This is double its previous guideline of four weeks. For men who have symptoms of the Zika virus, the WHO advises them to abstain from sex or use barrier contraception for six months over concerns that the virus could persist in semen. For women who have symptoms of the Zika virus, that recommended period is eight weeks. Additionally, couples who want to conceive are advised to wait six months if they had any symptoms of the Zika virus. Symptoms can include fever, pink eyes or rash.” The WHO is continuing to research the virus to find a way to prevent infection. (ABC)