A research letter published February 25, 2013, in JAMA Internal Medicine claims that less than 10 percent of surveyed packaged food products provided information about potassium content on their nutrition facts panels (NFPs). Noting that under current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy the disclosure of potassium levels is optional, researchers with New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene apparently examined the labels of 6,560 products culled from a database created in 2009 for the National Salt Reduction Initiative. Their findings evidently revealed that “most packaged food products do not include potassium content on the NFP” despite concerns that some consumers may need to monitor their intake of the electrolyte.

In particular, the study found that in almost one-half of the 61 food categories identified in the database, “potassium content was available for less than 1% of products.” It also identified the five categories—“vegetable juice; seasoned processed potatoes; instant hot cereal; French toast, pancakes and waffles; and major main entrée sauce”—in which potassium levels were provided for more than one-half of the products, which ranged from 0 to 920 mg per serving. Based on these results, the authors expressed concern that items with high levels of potassium did not appear more likely to offer this information when compared to products with relatively low levels.

“The lack of potassium information on the NFP presents a problem for patients and consumers trying to make informed decisions when purchasing foods, particularly those motivated to minimize their risk of cardiovascular disease and those for whom potassium intake must be restricted,” opine the letter’s signatories who, in addition to calling for the creation of “a publicly accessible, product-specific nutrition database of packaged food products,” urge FDA to consider requiring potassium content and percent daily value on labels when it overhauls NFP guidelines. “Providing this important information to consumers, patients, and researchers would allow a more detailed understanding of the food supply, which would complement existing strategies to improve population nutritional intake,” the letter concludes.