By Manojna Maddipatla
(Reuters) – The United States Food and Drug Administration is working on Wednesday to reduce salt levels by 12% on average in foods ranging from packaged meats to cheese, trying to quell a growing epidemic of preventable health problems that hit the country.
In sweeping guidelines, FDA seeks voluntary short-term low sodium goals for food manufacturers, restaurant chains, and food service operators – with a primary focus on processed and take-out foods .
The agency wants to reduce sodium intake to an average of 3,000 milligrams per day, from 3,400 mg over the next two and a half years.
But the average intake would still be above the limit recommended by the dietary guidelines for Americans of 2,300 mg per day for anyone over the age of 14.
New FDA Guidance on Salt https://graphics.reuters.com/FDA-FOOD/SALT/byvrjrrddve/FDA-FOOD-SODIUM.jpg
The move is likely to affect the consumer packaged food industry and key players PepsiCo Inc, Kraft Heinz Co and Campbell Soup. Fast food chains Americans love like McDonald’s Corp will also be on the radar.
Health experts, however, said the regulator needed to take a stronger stance.
“The FDA’s goals represent an important step forward, but reducing sodium intake to 3,000 mg per day is not enough,” the American Heart Association said in a statement.
“We urge the FDA to follow today’s action with additional goals to further reduce the amount of sodium in the food supply and help Americans achieve adequate sodium intake.”
High salt intake has been linked to high blood pressure, which is one of the main causes of heart attacks and strokes.
More than 4 in 10 American adults have high blood pressure and reducing sodium intake could prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and illnesses in the years to come, according to the agency.
Salt is an ubiquitous ingredient in almost all foods. The agency focused on 163 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods, including different types of cheeses, pickles, nuts, sauces, cold cuts, crackers and poultry products – all the things Americans love to eat. . Even more during the pandemic.
The FDA said modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will significantly reduce diet-related illnesses and said it plans to release revised and subsequent goals to gradually lower sodium levels.
“We’ll be monitoring this as we go… Look at who’s doing well, which food groups are getting there and when,” Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said on a media call.
“I hope that before we get to the end of the two and a half year period, we have a good idea of what our plan should be for the next iteration.”
The majority of sodium consumed comes from processed, packaged and prepared foods, not table salt added to foods during cooking or eating, making it difficult to control the amount of sodium consumed, the FDA said.
The Food Marketing Institute, a trade group representing the food industry, said it supports the FDA’s decision to extend the recommended timeframe for companies to meet voluntary sodium targets and is reviewing the guidelines and seeking feedback. of its members.
The agency said researchers estimate that the public health benefits of limiting salt intake lead to tens of thousands fewer heart disease and stroke cases each year, as well as billions of people. dollars in health care savings over time.
(Reporting by Oishee Majumdar and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Hillary Russ and Siddharth Cavale, written by Ankur Banerjee; editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Bernard Orr)