On June 1, FDA issued draft guidance for voluntary sodium reduction goals for food manufacturers and restaurants.1 According to the guidance, approximately three-quarters of sodium consumed by the US population is added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation. The new goals are therefore intended to encourage food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to reduce the amount of sodium they add to food to reduce overall salt consumption by about 50% throughout the next 10 years.

FDA states in the guidance that Americans consume too much sodium, and broad sodium reductions are necessary to achieve health benefits. The average sodium intake in the US is approximately 3,400 mg/day, about 50% more than the 2,300 mg/day recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to FDA, a diet high in sodium contributes to the development of hypertension, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Excessive sodium intake has also been linked to high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Many food companies and cities have already reduced salt levels, and the guidance document’s target goals are intended to complement these existing frameworks. For example, in 2015, a rule requiring sodium warnings for food with high sodium content took effect in New York. The rule requires certain chain food service establishments in New York to provide a warning for menu items that contain 2,300 mg or more of sodium.

FDA’s proposed sodium reductions are voluntary and intended to be gradual. The short-term (two-year) targets seek to decrease sodium intake to about 3,000 mg per day. The long-term (10-year) targets seek to reduce sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day. To achieve these goals, FDA organized foods into about 150 categories on the basis of several factors, including contribution to sodium intake and the amount of sodium added to the food.2FDA set sodium mean and upper-bound targets for foods with added sodium that could be meaningfully reduced. The categories and goals are applicable to all products commercially processed, packaged, and prepared by industry, regardless of whether they are sold directly to consumers, other manufacturers, restaurants, or other food service establishments.

FDA is seeking public comments on the draft guidance starting June 2, 2016, and provides for a 90-day and 150-day comment period. Feel free to reach out to the authors of this post for assistance with comments.