The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) has issued draft guidance aimed at encouraging the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in processed and commercially prepared foods. The regulator’s two-year and 10-year goals are aimed at helping the average US citizen reduce their daily sodium intake from 3,400 to 2,300 mg/day.
Today, Americans consume nearly 50 percent more sodium than the recommended daily amount. High blood pressure – which affects a third of the population – has been linked to high dietary sodium, and can increase an individual’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite individuals’ attempts to reduce their sodium intake by avoiding the salt shaker, most of the sodium in our diet comes in the form of processed and other prepared foods.
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” said Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.”
While the draft guidance is targeted at all food manufacturers, the FDA is especially focused on companies and restaurant chains whose products make up the bulk of national food sales. According to estimates made by the FDA, under 10 percent of packaged foods account for over 80 percent of all sales.
In addition, approximately 50 cents on every dollar goes toward purchasing food consumed outside the home, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. In light of this, the regulator is also looking for restaurants to lower the sodium levels in their medium and high salt menu items.
“The totality of the scientific evidence supports sodium reduction from current intake levels,” said Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Experts at the Institute of Medicine have concluded that reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day can significantly help Americans reduce their blood pressure and ultimately prevent hundreds of thousands of premature illnesses and deaths. Because the majority of sodium in our diets comes from processed and prepared foods, consumers are challenged in lowering their sodium intake themselves.”
The draft guidance for food manufacturers provides information on how these companies can gradually reduce sodium levels in their products. According to the FDA, the approach is feasible for food companies to implement, and will give consumers more low-sodium options.
“We believe that the time is now to engage in a national dialogue on the problem of excess sodium,” said Mayne. “Publishing these targets is an important step in that dialogue.”