FDA Releases First Round of Salt Reduction Guidance

SaltThe Food and Drug Administration has released the draft guidance for how food manufacturers should aim to reduce the amount of sodium in processed and prepared foods. The guidance is meant to help reduce the average American sodium intake from the current 3,400 mg/day to the recommended level of 2,300 mg/day. The guidance offers both short term (two year) and long-term (10 year) voluntary targets for the food and restaurant industry to meet that are intended to be compatible with any currently active sodium reduction plans companies may already be implementing.

The guidance is targeted towards food manufacturers whose products make up a significant part of national sales within certain categories and any national or regional restaurant or food retail chains.

The FDA Guidance: Summary

  • The draft guidance focuses on sodium levels in a food product as a whole rather than focusing on any specific ingredient
  • The guidance does not offer targets for food categories that don’t have a meaningful contribution to overall sodium intake even if the food itself is high in sodium (salted, dried fish for instance)
  • Ingredients that could serve similar functions to sodium are also highlighted
  • The short and long term timeframes are meant to acknowledge that this is going to be a gradual industry shift rather than a more sudden pivot
  • The guidance is meant to provide shared goals for reduction targets within individual food categories and intentionally does not prescribe specific methods or technologies for meeting targets
  • Also intentional is the lack of limits specified for any sodium-containing ingredients
  • Obviously, a key goal is that reducing sodium should not negatively impact nutrition through the addition of things like added sugar or saturated fats as a replacement

There is also an acknowledgement within the guidance that consumers will be playing a role in how well any change can go forwards. Part of the overview mentions that the time frames and targets should allow for a steady enough pace that consumer preferences and expectations for saltiness are given time to adjust as food reformulations occur. Since this is draft guidance, the FDA is accepting public comment which will be taken into account while the final official guidance and targets are developed.

If successful, the sodium decrease to 2,300 mg/day is estimated by the CDC to save 500,000 lives and almost $100 billion in healthcare costs each year due to reductions in hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.

The full draft guidance can be found here.

Source for Today’s Article:

“Draft Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods,” Food and Drug Administration web site, June 1, 2016; http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm494732.htm, last accessed June 2, 2016.