Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken new action to address preventable, chronic diseases and advance health equity for all. The FDA has issued final guidance to set voluntary sodium reduction targets for the producers of foods Americans eat every day. This is a significant step in creating a healthier food supply to help reverse the trend of diet-related chronic diseases and the disproportionate burden experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups.
The FDA’s guidance, "Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods,” provides voluntary, short-term sodium reduction targets for food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operators for approximately 160 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods. The targets seek to decrease average sodium intake from approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) to 3,000 mg per day—about a 12% reduction—over the next 2.5 years.
ODPHP recently released a Dietary Guidelines for Americans fact sheet on sodium to advise consumers on strategies to lower their sodium intake. However, because about 70% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged, processed, and restaurant foods not prepared by consumers, sodium reduction still presents a significant challenge. The FDA’s plan recognizes that successful sodium reduction needs to take place broadly across the overall food supply, making default choices healthier and helping consumers make changes with much less effort. While the new FDA guidance for producers will still be above the Dietary Guidelines recommended limit of 2,300 mg per day for those 14 and older, these modest reductions—made slowly over the next few years—will substantially decrease risk for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke and make for a healthier, more resilient population overall. In the future, the FDA plans to issue revised, subsequent targets to lower the sodium content incrementally to further help reduce sodium intake.
The new guidance finalizes a 2016 draft guidance which provided the FDA’s proposed targets for reducing sodium content while recognizing and supporting the important role sodium plays in food technology and food safety. Along with the recent updates to the Nutrition Facts label, this new guidance is an more important step towards supporting individuals and families in making healthier food choices.