Salt Limits Proposed by FDA for U.S. Restaurants, Packaged Food

  • Guideline released by agency would be voluntary for companies
  • Ten-year goal is to reduce daily sodium to 2,300 milligrams

The U.S. government on Wednesday proposed voluntary limits on sodium in packaged and restaurant food in an effort to reduce Americans’ salt intake.

The Food and Drug Administration released the voluntary guidelines for 150 categories of processed and prepared foods. Americans get more than 75 percent of dietary sodium from such food, according to the FDA. The main culprits include bread, cheese, deli meat, pizza, poultry and soups. Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure, which is associated with increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.”

The proposal will go through a public comment period where industry and citizens can weigh in before the rules are finalized.

The guidelines are the latest part of an effort to overhaul how Americans eat and to control the country’s widespread obesity. The FDA last month released new labels for packaged food and drinks to include serving sizes that more accurately reflect the amounts people actually consume, highlight calorie counts and differentiate between natural and added sugars. The labels also included a reduction in the daily recommended value of sodium to 2,300 milligrams. Most Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, the FDA said, almost 50 percent more than the recommended amount. Sodium is one of the chemical elements found in salt.

The guidelines create two-year and 10-year targets for industry. The short-term target seeks to decrease sodium intake to about 3,000 milligrams per day. Some food companies have already moved in that direction, the FDA said.