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FDA sets voluntary sodium targets for restaurants

The Food and Drug Administration is looking to reduce the amount of sodium Americans consume by encouraging restaurants, foodservice operators and manufacturers to meet “voluntary targets” in 150 categories of food over the next 10 years.

In draft guidance released June 1, the FDA said its goal is to reduce Americans’ average sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day over the next decade, down from an estimated 3,400 mg today. The agency’s initial target is to reduce the daily sodium intake to 3,000 mg in the next two years.

What’s in the guidance: The draft guidance sets voluntary two- and 10-year sodium targets for 150 categories of prepared, packaged and processed foods.  The FDA says it intends to measure progress against 2010 baseline levels. For example, the FDA claims French fries in restaurants now contain approximately 385 mg of sodium per 100 grams. The FDA is encouraging restaurant companies to voluntarily reduce that to 310 mg within two years and 190 mg within 10 years. The FDA says this gradual, voluntary approach will give the food industry time to reformulate products and menu offerings and help consumers to adjust to reductions

What does the FDA want restaurants to do? Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said the agency acknowledges the work the foodservice industry has done to reduce sodium content in many products. She noted that the FDA believes many food products already meet the short-term targets the agency has set, but added that more restaurant participation would go a long way toward helping the agency achieve its long-term sodium reduction goal.

“Consumers eat a lot of their calories away from home,” she said. “The emphasis, obviously, is to try and get restaurants that are national and regional in scope on board. That will help us achieve the public health impact of lowering sodium in the food supply.”

Why now? Diets high in sodium have been linked to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and strokes. The FDA said it has tried for years to use education and food labels to get individuals to scale back sodium consumption, but believes that approach is no longer enough. More than three-quarters of Americans’ sodium intake comes through processed or restaurant foods, the FDA said. The agency wants to ramp up its work with food manufacturers and restaurateurs to cut the amount of sodium in the overall U.S. food supply.

What’s next? The FDA wants feedback from the food industry. The National Restaurant Association will work with its members to weigh in. The agency is asking for input on the challenges associated with sodium reduction, whether the FDA is focusing on the right food categories and if the proposed sodium targets are correct. Stakeholders can issue comments on the short-term targets through August and through October on the long-term targets.

The NRA released an initial statement on the draft guidance and will provide more detailed information once it analyzes the guidance.

-National Restaurant Association

Author: MRA
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