The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published draft  guidance “that provides practical, voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry.” Titled ‘‘Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods,” the guidance sets short- and long-term sodium targets for the following food categories: (i) cheese; (ii) fats, oils and dressings; (iii) fruits, vegetables and legumes; (iv) nuts and seeds; (v) soups; (vi) sauces, gravies, dips, condiments and seasonings; (vii) cereals; (viii) bakery products; (ix) meat and poultry; (x) fish and other seafood; (xi) snacks; (xii) sandwiches; (xiii) mixed ingredient dishes; (xiv) salads; (xv) other combination foods; and (xvi) baby/toddler foods.

“Our goal is to promote gradual, efficient voluntary reduction of overall sodium content using effective and sustainable strategies that maintain other measures of nutritional quality,” states the agency in its guidance. “The extent and speed of reduction will be different for different products and categories, since the 10-year targets set were designed to allow for flexibility in reformulation based on differences in food categories and products.”

Relying on consumption data, FDA estimates that these industry measures will reduce the mean population intake to approximately 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, from 3,400 mg/day. The agency has requested comments pertaining to the food categories and two-year salt reduction goals by August 31, 2016. It has requested comments on the 10-year targets, as well as feedback on technical challenges and innovative solutions to salt reduction, by October 31, 2016. See Federal Register, June 2, 2016.

Meanwhile, the agency reportedly denied the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI’s) petition for mandatory salt reduction in packaged and processed foods. “We hope that industry will work cooperatively with the FDA and health experts to achieve the proposed reductions, which would benefit the health of all Americans,” said CSPI President Michael Jacobson in a June 1 press release. “While this is a voluntary approach as opposed to the mandatory approach we asked for and that the Institute of Medicine endorsed, it provides clear goals by which companies can be held accountable. And, it helps level the playing field for those companies that are already trying to use less salt in their foods.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) also issued a statement on the proposed guidelines in support of further dialogue with FDA. As GMA Chief Science Officer Leon Bruner explains, “Success in cutting sodium consumption will require a holistic approach that includes actions by manufacturers, retailers and restaurants and that addresses consumer behaviors and preferences… Like others inside and outside of government, we believe additional work is needed to determine the acceptable range of sodium intake for optimal health. This evaluation should include research that indicates health risks for people who consume too much sodium as well as health risks from consuming too little sodium.” See GMA Press Release, June 1, 2016.