The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new draft guidelines on June 1, which urge the food industry to cut back on the amount of sodium added to processed, packaged and prepared foods.
The new voluntary guidelines recommend sodium limits for more than 100 different processed, packaged, and prepared foods, and are broken into short-term (two-year) and long-term (10-year) goals. The target-goals are set to allow manufacturers ample time to reformulate their products, and allow people to adjust their palates to eating lower-sodium meals.
According to the FDA, the average sodium intake in the United States is approximately 3,400 milligrams per day; however, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Healthy People 2020 advises that people consume less than or equal to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Additionally, because approximately 75 percent of total sodium intake comes from processed and commercially prepared foods (we’re looking at you, Seamless), the voluntary guidance aims to encourage Americans to achieve the recommended sodium intake by requesting “food manufacturers, restaurants, and food service operations to reduce sodium in foods.”
“Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that’s hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in an FDA statement. “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health.”
Of course, because the guidelines are only voluntary, a variety of health groups have emerged to argue for mandatory standards; while they concede that the voluntary guidelines are a step in the right direction, the worry is that some restaurants and food providers won’t comply.
Michael Jacobson, the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News that the government ought to measure how effective the voluntary guidelines work. If the standards fall short of the target, he suggests the FDA set mandatory guidelines.
"It's disappointing that the FDA is only proposing targets and not formal limits, but in this political climate with a Republican Congress and such massive industry opposition, we're gratified that the administration is at least coming out with voluntary targets," Jacobson said.