The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene held a meeting late last month to discuss its proposal for food manufacturers to reduce sodium in dairy foods, specifically cheese, on a voluntary basis. Working with other local and state governments and public health organizations, the department has formed the New York City National Sodium Reduction Initiative with a goal of reducing the amount of sodium in the American diet by 20 percent by 2014.
The department's proposal asks dairy manufacturers to reduce sodium in cheese from 15 percent to 25 percent, depending on the type of cheese, in the next five years. Processed cheese manufacturers would be expected to make the most cuts in sodium, with a 10 percent reduction by 2012 and an additional 15 percent by 2014.
The proposal also calls for significant sodium reduction in cottage cheese, with a 10 percent reduction by 2012 and an additional 10 percent cut by 2014. Makers of others types of cheese, including hard-grated cheese, natural cheese and cream cheese, would be asked to reduce sodium content 5 percent by 2012 and an additional 10 percent by 2014.
Representatives from many National Cheese Institute member companies joined Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director for nutrition and labeling, for the meeting's teleconference.
"The potential impact on cheeses is huge due to the importance of salt and sodium in the cheesemaking process, so IDFA is closely monitoring this initiative," said Matto. "Instead of a blanket reduction of sodium levels in specific foods, IDFA encourages balancing sodium intake in the overall diet."
The proposal also recommends reductions for a variety of other foods, including bread, popcorn, chips, cereal, vegetables, soups and sauces.
IDFA plans to work with members of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Nutrition and the NCI Regulatory Committee to submit written comments to New York City. If you are interested in participating, contact Matto at email@example.com or (202) 220-3523.