FDA Issues Final Guidance for Voluntarily Reducing Sodium in Processed and Packaged Foods

A step to improve nutrition and reduce the burden of disease

A cornerstone of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s public health mission is to reduce the burden of chronic disease through improved nutrition.

As a nation, the USA is facing a growing epidemic of preventable, diet-related conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, and the agency’s work in this area has become even more urgent.

For these reasons, FDA is taking a critical step to further address preventable diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity.

Is it a significant public health nutrition intervention?

The unnecessary amount of sodium present in most of the diets often results in hundreds of thousands of lives lost and billions in annual health care costs.

By limiting certain nutrients like sodium in diets, can help prevent diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular disease that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups.

FDA has issued final guidance – Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods.

Which provides voluntary short-term sodium reduction targets for food manufacturers, chain restaurants, and foodservice operators for 163 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods.

What research says?

Research shows that people consume 50% more sodium than recommended. This includes the youngest and most vulnerable populations, with more than 95% of children aged 2 to 13 years old exceeding recommended limits of sodium for their age groups.

About 70% of the sodium which consumers eat comes from packaged, processed, and restaurant foods, making it challenging to limit sodium.

Changes across the overall food supply will make it easier to access lower-sodium options and reduce intake even in the absence of behavior change.

The target

 The targets in the final guidance seek to decrease average sodium intake from approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) to 3,000 mg per day, about a 12% reduction, over the next 2.5 years.

The final guidance outlines short-term goals that FDA is recommending the food industry work to meet as soon as possible to help optimize public health.

In the future, FDA plans to issue revised, subsequent targets to further lower the sodium content incrementally and continue to help reduce sodium intake.

Voluntary and gradual approaches such as this have also been successful in other countries, such as Canada and the U.K.

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