The Food and Drug Administration is urging the food industry to voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in products amid a "growing epidemic of preventable, diet-related conditions," the agency announced in updated guidance Wednesday. The new recommendations seek to decrease the nation's average sodium consumption by 12% over the next two and a half years.
"Limiting certain nutrients, such as sodium, in our diets plays a crucial role in preventing diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular disease that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups," the FDA said in a statement. "These diseases often result in hundreds of thousands of lives lost and billions in annual health care costs."
According to the FDA, Americans on average consume nearly 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which is more than 1,000 milligrams above the amount recommended for those age 14 years and older. Nearly 70% of sodium intake comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, the agency said.
The new guidance seeks to reduce the average daily amount of salt consumption from 3,400 milligrams to 3,000 milligrams — which is still higher than health officials would like.
"Although the average intake would still be above the Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommended limit of 2,300 mg per 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," the FDA said.
Too muchcan lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Food manufacturers, retailers and food service companies are advised under the guidance to gradually reduce salt levels in their products so as to allow time for proper reformulation. But with those changes, the FDA also advised the food industry to not modify other nutrient levels in a way that would negatively affect the nutritional quality of products, like adding more sugar or saturated fat content.
The FDA recommended the new guidelines take effect "as soon as possible" and said it will continue to issue updated targets in the future to further decrease sodium content incrementally.
"This iterative approach will help support gradual reductions in sodium levels broadly across the food supply so that consumers' tastes adjust, health outcomes improve and no one company or category of food is singled out or scrutinized," the FDA stated.
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