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FDA announces voluntary sodium-reduction plan

salt shaker spill

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a plan for restaurants and foodservice suppliers to voluntarily reduce the amount of sodium that’s in the food they sell by about a third.

The proposal sets reduction targets on a product-by-product basis for two- and 10-year intervals. The aim is to bring down the average American’s sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, from the current mean of 3,400 milligrams.

In issuing the proposals, the FDA noted that 75% of the salt in a typical consumer’s diet is in the food before it’s purchased, be it from a restaurant or a supermarket.

Today’s plan was released to solicit comments from consumers, manufacturers, restaurateurs and other stakeholders. It stressed that there is no effort underway to mandate the reductions in sodium content.

It also noted the voluntary efforts that many chains have made to reduce sodium in response to consumer preferences and concerns.

That trend was echoed by the National Restaurant Association in its response to the announcement of the FDA’s plan. 

“The restaurant industry is taking a proactive role in helping Americans live healthier lives by offering a growing number of menu options and choices for customers,” Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s VP of food policy and industry affairs, said in a statement. “As part of that commitment, restaurants across our industry have been actively engaged for some time in voluntary efforts to provide consumers with lower-sodium options.

McGlockton noted that the efforts have been complicated by consumers’ preferences and the lack of acceptable alternatives to high-sodium items.

The FDA noted that it was seeking comment specifically on those points.

It stressed that it’s looking for two types of voluntary changes: short-term alterations, or tweaks that can be made within two years; and longer, more ambitious reductions, which are more likely to require much of a decade.

The plan was revealed roughly a week before New York City health officials plan to start enforcing a requirement that chain restaurants in the city flag items with at least 2,300 milligrams of salt with a warning icon, a salt shaker silhouetted against a dark background.

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