FDA to pressure restaurants to reduce sodium levels

June 23, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration last week announced it was preparing voluntary guidelines for the food industry to lower sodium levels. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told the Associated Press that sodium is “of huge concern” and that the current level of consumption is “higher than it should be.”

A set release date of these guidelines is yet to be determined, but Hamburg promised a “realistic timeline.”

According to USA Today, Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily, about a third more than the government recommends. High sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, strokes and other health issues.

Many restaurants have already worked to reduce sodium levels in their food. Subway restaurants said it has made a 30-percent reduction, for example. Tim Hortons has also made progress with its sodium reduction initiative.

HealthyDining features Sodium Savvy Selections

With the FDA’s news, Healthy Dining president and founder Anita Jones-Mueller said many restaurants already participate in the Healthy Dining Sodium Savvy program.

“The vast majority of Americans are consuming too much sodium every day, and the consequences are serious – heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even premature death,” she said in a news release. “The good news is that many restaurants have already made great strides in reducing sodium content.”

Healthy Dining’s Sodium Savvy program helps consumers find menu choices that are lower in sodium at thousands of restaurant locations nationwide.

To qualify as Sodium Savvy, a menu item must meet the following requirements:

  • Entrée: 750 mg of sodium or less
  • Appetizer, Side Dish or Dessert: 250 mg of sodium or less

Push back from the Salt Institute

Also in response to the FDA’s intent to issue voluntary guidelines, the Salt Institute said it is showing a “blatant disregard for science.”

The FDA cited a 2010 Institute of Medicine report which recommended sodium limits. But the Salt Institute said this citation ignores a more recent 2013 Institute of Medicine review of studies that examined links between sodium consumption and health outcomes.

“This newer review raised serious questions about possible harm caused by sodium reduction efforts and recognized that blood pressure is only one of many factors that should be considered in evaluating dietary changes,” the Salt Institute said in a statement.

“Science indicates that population-wide sodium reduction is unnecessary and possibly harmful. Not only are they ignoring the science, but they are ignoring the wishes of the American people, who overwhelmingly responded against such proposed guidelines,” President Lori Roman said in a news release.

Topics: Health & Nutrition, Trends / Statistics

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