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New FDA Guidance on Salt Reductions in Processed Food

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Agency officials said the move may be “one of the most significant public health interventions in a generation.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance for the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium in processed and packaged foods Wednesday as part of an effort to combat negative health outcomes linked to salt.

“As a nation, we are facing a growing epidemic of preventable, diet-related conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, and the agency’s work in this has become even more urgent,” wrote Dr. Janet Woodcock MD, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs for FDA, and Dr. Susan T. Mayne Ph.D., director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), in a statement. “For these reasons, we’re taking a critical step to further address preventable diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity that we soon hope will become one of the most significant public health interventions in a generation.”

The final guidance, “Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods,” lays out short-term targets for sodium reduction across 163 categories of manufactured food products. FDA seeks to cut salt intake from 3,400 mg/day to 3,000 mg/day over a two-and-a-half-year period, representing a 12% reduction.

“Although the average intake would still be above the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended limit of 2,300 mg/day for those 14 and older, we know that even these modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will substantially decrease diet-related diseases,” Woodcock and Mayne said.

Draft guidance on lowering sodium in processed and packaged foods was first issued by the FDA in 2016.

Several other major industrialized nations have created salt reduction targets in recent years. Health Canada published voluntary sodium reduction targets for 94 categories of processed foods in 2012. A number of European Union (EU) member states have developed national salt reduction plans.

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