(CBS) - Pass the salt and lots of it but it's not just the salt shaker that's helping turn the American diet into a dangerous diet. It's the hidden salt in processed foods.
The government is being asked to step and force food makers to change their ways.
Americans love the taste of salt. "If I feel it needs a little salt, I'm not shy to put the salt on there."
But that extra sprinkle could be a killer. New research shows Americans consume about one and a half teaspoons a day more than double what they need for good health.
But the salt from the shaker is only part of the problem. It's the salt that you can't see hidden inside processed foods like soups, frozen pizza, even bread. In fact close to 80% of salt in our diet comes from processed foods.
Even low-calorie salad dressings can be loaded with sodium, up 994 milligrams. That's just half a teaspoon per serving and half the recommended amount of sodium for an entire day.
Now the Institute of Medicine is urging the government to step in and force the entire food industry to gradually cut the salt
Dr. Sonia Y. Angel of the NYC Dept. of Health says "The levels of sodium in our diets today as a result of the amount of sodium in our foods today is not safe and so we appeal to the FDA to take action."
It's well known that too much salt raises blood pressure.
"Which by itself causes heart disease, kidney disease and brain disease," said Dr. Franz Messerli of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.
The American Medical Association says that if salt in processed and restaurant food were in half over ten years over 150,000 lives a year could be saved.
Some of the public has gotten the message but still there is a long way to go before Americans start passing on the salt.