NEW YORK (AP) – Food companies are under new pressure to use less salt after US regulators set long-awaited guidelines to reduce sodium levels in dozens of foods, including condiments, grains, fries and potato chips.
The voluntary targets finalized Wednesday for 163 foods are intended to help reduce the amount of salt people eat. The majority of sodium in the American diet comes from packaged foods or restaurants – not salt added to meals at home – making it difficult for people to make changes on their own.
To get people used to eating less salt, the Food and Drug Administration has said cuts need to be gradual and across the food supply so people don’t keep looking for higher sodium options.
“By setting goals, it really helps level the playing field across the industry,” said Susan Mayne, director of the Food Safety and Nutrition Division of the FDA.
Over the next 2.5 years, the FDA’s sodium target levels aim to reduce average intake by 12% – from 3,400 to 3,000 milligrams per day. This would still leave the average intake above the federally recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for people 14 years of age and older. But the agency says it will monitor the industry’s progress and continue to issue updated targets to bring levels closer to the recommended limit over time.
The FDA said it took industry comments into consideration after it released its orientation project in 2016. Ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce, for example, have been split up and now have different targets. Another difference is that the final guidelines do not specify a timeline for achieving longer-term goals.
“It’s a huge disappointment that the 10-year goal hasn’t been released at the same time,” said Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
Mozaffarian said some food companies opposed sodium reduction targets, but more scientific support emerged for federal sodium guidelines. In 2019, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine tied the recommended limit to a reduced risk chronic disease. A recent to study in China also found lower rates of strokes and major heart events in people using a salt substitute compared to those using regular salt.
The effectiveness of the targets in pushing the industry to reduce sodium levels will depend on how the FDA monitors progress and communicates publicly about it, Mozaffarian said.
In a statement, the National Restaurant Association said it has provided feedback on the FDA’s draft guidelines and that its member companies continue to provide options that meet customer demand.
The American Frozen Food Institute said member companies are already offering low sodium options to meet consumer demand.
Even though the guidelines are voluntary, companies could feel pressure to make changes to avoid more stringent regulatory measures, said Dr Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which called for standards. sodium mandatory.
“If it turns out that the impact is not what we hoped for, I think it’s back to the drawing board, and mandatory cuts are on the table,” he said. .
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.