Sodium is widely present in the American diet. Primarily, but not exclusively, as a result of eating or drinking foods to which sodium chloride or “salt” has been added. More than 70 percent of that intake is from sodium added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation. But that may change after the FDA announced its final guidance titled: “Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods.” This voluntary guidance provides short-term sodium reduction targets for food manufacturers, chain restaurants and foodservice operators for 163 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods.
This is part of FDA's announced public health mission to reduce the burden of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, through improved nutrition. The dietary guidelines for people 14 years and older say to limit sodium consumption to 2,300 mg/day. But the average sodium consumption in the U.S. is roughly 3,400 mg/day. This excess intake has been linked to numerous, preventable health issues. “For these reasons," FDA says it is "taking a critical step to further address preventable diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity that we hope will become one of the most significant public health nutrition interventions in a generation."
As noted above, this is an FDA guidance document that sets voluntary goals for industry to follow. Whether they will be ever be achieved will, in my view, come down to a simple proposition. Can a substantial amount of salt be removed from the U.S. diet without substantially altering the flavor profile of the foods we purchase? While everyone seems willing to accept the notion of eating healthier, our country has not shown a willingness to do so if it means sacrificing taste.
By limiting certain nutrients like sodium, it can help prevent diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular disease that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups, often resulting in hundreds of thousands of lives lost and billions in annual health care costs.