A New York City-led consortium of cities, states and health organizations recently released to the public its proposed targets for reducing salt levels in packaged and restaurant foods. Called the National Salt Reduction Initiative, the group plans to encourage processors to voluntarily cut the amount of salt used in prepared foods, including cheese, by up to 25 percent over the next four years.
The initiative announced voluntary targets for 61 categories of packaged foods, including grated hard cheese; cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, muenster, provolone and Swiss cheese; cream cheese; cottage cheese; and processed cheese. IDFA remains concerned that the current standards of identity for some of these cheeses would not allow the amount of reduction called for by the group.
In 2009, IDFA filed three sets of comments on various versions of the initiative and questioned how the program would be implemented. Reducing sodium content without considering its impact on nutrition, food safety, flavor and consumer preference, IDFA said, is not practical and could even be dangerous for some products.
These comments and others from member companies contributed to the initiative's acceptance of slightly higher goal levels for sodium in cottage cheese. (Read "IDFA Voices Many Concerns to NYC Sodium Reduction Initiative.")
"The potential impact on cheeses is huge due to the importance of salt and sodium in the cheesemaking process, so IDFA is closely monitoring the progress of this initiative," said Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and regulatory affairs. "Instead of proposing a blanket reduction of sodium levels in specific foods, IDFA will reinforce the importance of balancing overall sodium intake in the diet."
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is spearheading the initiative, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New York State Health Foundation, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The group hopes that the targets, once finalized, will provide a framework for reducing salt in the national food supply.
A final public comment period will end February 1.
IDFA will continue to consult with members and others in the dairy industry to determine appropriate next steps. For more information, contact Matto at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3523.