Sodium reduction

per day and up to 3,700mg per day for adolescents age 14 to 18.

More consumers are searching for natural ingredients on their food labels.

Sodium chloride is commonly sold as ‘table salt’, with many people adding table salt to their food at mealtimes. But what can easily be forgotten is the amount that is already added to foods and ingredients, and the potential harmful effects that come from excessive consumption.

“The FDA’s decision to rename potassium chloride to potassium salt is a clear indicator of a common goal to promote health and make labelling on foods and ingredients easier and more geared to the consumer.”

40% US CDC 84

This is why it is important to know how much salt is being consumed – whatever it may be called on the label – as well as the different ways intake can be reduced through lifestyle changes so that people can make more informed choices. The FDA’s decision to rename potassium chloride as potassium salt is a clear indicator of a common goal to promote health and make labelling on foods and ingredients easier and more geared to the consumer.

A salty story

If the US sodium intake was reduced by this amount in the next ten years, up to 500,000 lives could be saved and the country would save $100bn in healthcare costs.

It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 3,400mg of sodium per day. In terms of federal guidelines, it is recommended that people limit their sodium intake to around 2,300mg. Effectively, this means that people are taking in more than one and a half of their recommended levels of sodium in their diet every day. A significant concern is that children and adolescents are exceeding the adult daily recommendations of sodium intake, with children aged from six to ten at around 2,300mg

The US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) looked at various different studies. What was clearly indicated was that as the amount of sodium consumed increased, this then led to increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions. The research also suggested that if US sodium intake was reduced by 40% in the next ten years, then up to 500,000 lives could be saved and the country would save $100bn in the cost of healthcare. In order to reach this point, the FDA is looking at ways to reduce excess sodium consumption. The first is looking at ways for the food industry to adopt voluntary targets in both the short term and long term. This will include working closer with companies and restaurants to see how processes can be changed to reduce the amount of sodium that goes into food. Significantly more sodium comes from what is added during these processes, as opposed to what people add themselves with shakers on tables – although that can contribute as well.

This has further been divided into 16 categories of recommendations and 150 subcategories to cover different types of food. The FDA has done this because it is felt that different products and industries have different requirements, therefore a “one size fits all” approach would not be appropriate way of achieving their goals. For example, it is recognised that a lot of foods such as deli meats or bread are high in sodium. It is also true that items like dried fish also have a high amount of sodium. What the FDA recognises is that it is better to target items like processed foods because these are consumed more often and therefore would understandably be a higher priority when it comes to addressing the issue in terms of how often people consume these foods.

Taste the difference

There is some concern that by reducing the amount of sodium, consumers will notice the difference in flavour. However, recent studies have shown that a reduction by around 10 to 15%is often not noticeable. The FDA has also been at pains to emphasise that the reduction would be a gradual process, so the likelihood would be that as the products change consumers would get used to the taste over time rather than noticing an immediate change. Another issue is the approach that food companies have taken. While it is true that there have been moves to introduce lower sodium brands, rather than promoting a line of low-sodium product ranges, there should be more effort to reducing sodium as a whole throughout the food industry.

Ingredients Insight /

Iakov Filimonov/

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