Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration issued sodium reduction guidelines aimed at food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations. The long-awaited targets, first drafted in 2016, cover 163 categories of processed food and set clear goals for industry stakeholders.
The guidance sets out a 2.5-year timeframe in which food manufacturers can align with the new sodium targets. The aim is to reduce daily sodium intake to 3000 mg/day in the short term – while gradually moving toward achieving USDA dietary guideline limit of 2300 mg/day.
This gradual approach is intended to allow adequate time for manufacturers to reformulate their products – as well as supporting the evolving change in consumer tastes.
The FDA sets its sights firmly on commercially processed, packaged, and prepared foods – which are the main contributors of excess dietary sodium. Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said the recommendations are the first step in lowering sodium intake to align with current dietary guidelines for Americans.
The new guidance provides targets for both restaurant and packaged versions of selected food categories. As well as setting a target for each individual food item, it also sets an average sodium target per food category.
The Salty Six: the worst offenders
Average sodium consumption in the US is 3,400 mg per day. The CDC estimates 71% of Americans’ sodium intake is from processed and restaurant foods. The highest-sodium foods have been named by the American Heart Association as the “Salty Six.” Not only are they super-salty, they’re also some of most popular packaged and restaurant foods.
The Salty Six are listed below alongside with their new FDA sodium targets:
Breads & Rolls
- Wheat and Mixed Grain Bread. New packaged sodium goal: 490 mg/100g
- White bread. New packaged sodium goal: 550 mg/100g
- Pizza with Meat/Poultry/Seafood. New packaged sodium goal: 630 mg/100g
- Pizza with other toppings. New packaged sodium goal: 550 mg/100g
- New restaurant sodium goal: Between 460-760 mg/100g, depending on the ingredients
Cured Deli Meats
- New packaged sodium goal: 1,270 mg/100g
- New packaged sodium goal: 330mg/100g
- New restaurant sodium goal: 550 mg/100g
A sign of things to come
The FDA’s new guidelines could signal the beginning of a more proactive era for the agency in its approach to food safety.
While the new FDA guidance is nonbinding and voluntary, this is likely to be only the first step in establishing firmer standards for sodium content.
Its move to finally codify voluntary guidelines lays the groundwork for further action. At the end of the 2.5 year window, it’s likely that longer-term or mandatory targets may follow.
What’s really at stake?
Tackling the infamous Salty Six and other high-sodium foods may seem a daunting task. But for the sake of public health, it’s a necessary endeavour. Excessive sodium is one of the factors driving the epidemic of heart disease in the US and across the world. It’s also linked to high blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Increased dietary sodium can even have an adverse effect on the kidneys and brain.
The need to reduce high sodium levels in our food is an urgent global issue. In 2013 all Member States of the World Health Organization signed up to the target to reduce salt intake by 30% by 2025. Earlier this year, the WHO also tightened the demands and released global sodium benchmarks for 64 food categories.
In announcing the new guidelines, the FDA said lowering sodium intake by 40% percent over a decade could save 500,000 lives.
Naturally Reducing Sodium in Food Products
More than 70% of total sodium intake stems from salt added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation. Both the FDA and the WHO have therefore challenged the food industry to reduce sodium and improve the nutritional profile of their products. And as consumers increasingly look for clean-label options, it’s not simply a case of swapping in an artificial ingredient to reduce sodium.
So, what’s the solution to successfully evolving in the food industry to meet public health standards, while upholding the same standard of flavour that consumers demand?
SALTWELL® is the simple solution that more and more food manufacturers are using. It’s an all-natural sea salt that’s low in sodium. And unlike manufactured lower-sodium options, the single-grain composition of SALTWELL® ensures consistency in formulations.
A simple 1:1 replacement using SALTWELL®, gives you the same taste, but with 35% less sodium than regular salt. No compromising on flavour or function!
The labelling of SALTWELL® is simple and clean too. It’s officially approved by the FDA to be labelled as sea salt – which in turn allows producers to keep a clean, and short, ingredients list. No need to add potassium salt to the list of ingredients, because SALTWELL® is a sea salt. It’s the natural, smart, and efficient way to align your product portfolio with new heart-healthy sodium targets – and help to save lives.
For those actively involved in reducing sodium in foods, whether it be R&D, NPD, Sales, Marketing or just a curious food technologist, they can source samples of SALTWELL®, here.
And to download a PDF of the FDA guidance, click here.