FDA issues new guidance on sodium, calls it ‘pivotal’ moment in US health
The FDA has issued voluntary guidelines that are intended to lower excess sodium intake from packaged, processed and prepared foods, the agency said.
“This is really a pivotal day for the health of our nation as the FDA takes a critical step in our efforts to reduce the burden of diet-related chronic disease and advance health equity,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said in a conference call with reporters.
The new guidance seeks to lower average sodium intake from approximately 3,400 mg to 3,000 mg daily during the next 2.5 years. This reduction may come from the manufacturers of many items including canned vegetables, cheeses, breads and poultry, making changes to their production process, according to materials the FDA issued along with the new guidelines.
Woodcock said that “even these modest reductions may slowly” decrease nutrition-related diseases, which could “lower the burden of health care costs in this country.”
If the target is met, the average sodium intake would still be higher than the currently recommended daily limit of 2,300 mg for individuals aged 14 years and older. According to the FDA, Americans consume 50% more sodium than recommended, and more than 95% of children aged 2 to 13 years surpass the recommended limits of sodium for their age groups. Excessive sodium consumption has been linked to several health conditions, including hypertension and CVD, particularly in underrepresented populations. HHS said that reducing U.S. sodium intake by roughly 40% during a 10-year period may save 500,000 lives and nearly $100 billion in health care costs.
“FDA’s guidance marks a generational opportunity to turn the tide against diet-related chronic disease and work to end health disparities,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Additional voluntary reductions to sodium are likely forthcoming, the FDA said. In the interim, the FDA intends to monitor how the impacted companies are complying with the guidance and allow individuals’ palates time to adjust to the changes, Woodcock said.
With today’s announcement largely geared toward food manufacturers, restaurants and food service operators, Woodcock also provided tangible actions that physicians can share with patients to initiate change.
“If they’re purchasing ... any kind of processed or prepared food, they need to look at those nutritional facts labels and try to figure out which is the lowest sodium content. If you’re at a chain restaurant, you can ask for menu labeling extension and get the nutrition information,” she said. “For the many Americans who are trying to have a healthier diet and eat healthier food, [the guidance] will help because it will get the whole food supply to have less sodium rather than them having to try to pick and choose and pick the healthy choices.”
FDA. Food categories and voluntary targets. https://www.fda.gov/media/98552/download. Published Oct. 13, 2021. Accessed Oct. 13, 2021.
FDA. To improve nutrition and reduce the burden of disease, FDA issues food industry guidance for voluntarily reducing sodium in processed and packaged foods. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/improve-nutrition-and-reduce-burden-disease-fda-issues-food-industry-guidance-voluntarily-reducing. Published Oct. 13, 2021. Accessed Oct. 13, 2021.
FDA. Voluntary sodium reduction goals: Target mean and upper bound concentrations for sodium in commercially processed, packaged and orepared Foods: Guidance for industry. https://www.fda.gov/media/98264/download. Published Oct. 13, 2021. Accessed Oct. 13, 2021.
HHS. Statement by HHS Xavier Becerra on FDA sodium reduction guidance. Published Oct. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/10/13/statement-hhs-xavier-becerra-fda-sodium-reduction-guidance.html. Accessed Oct. 13, 2021.