Cheese is a nutrient-dense food that provides just 7.8 percent of the sodium in the U.S. food supply, IDFA told Food and Drug Administration officials in comments filed Monday on approaches to reducing sodium consumption. IDFA highlighted individual company and industry efforts to reduce sodium in cheese, saying voluntary actions make mandatory requirements unnecessary, and outlined challenges that remain.
FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service have been gathering data and comments regarding dietary intake of sodium and practices by industry to reduce sodium in foods. The agencies are considering ways to promote "gradual, achievable and sustainable reduction of sodium intake over time."
Dairy Included in DASH Diet
In the comments, IDFA reinforced the nutrient-rich role of cheese, highlighting the significant levels of calcium, phosphorous, protein and vitamin A that it provides to the American diet. In fact, IDFA noted, milk, yogurt and cheese are integral parts of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which was designed and remains effective for preventing and reducing high blood pressure.
"Since salt and sodium serve so many functional purposes in cheese, it can be difficult to successfully reduce the levels of sodium in cheeses," IDFA said. "However, the cheese industry has undertaken significant work, both by individual companies and as a coalition of the entire industry, to identify and implement approaches to lower sodium in both natural and processed cheeses."
Because not all reductions reach the level of 25 percent or more currently required for products to use the "sodium reduced" nutrient content claim, IDFA believes these regulations should be changed to allow more products to carry this claim. Products with smaller reductions might gain better acceptance from consumers.
"Reductions at lower levels, such as 10 percent less sodium, would add up across the total diet and could have a significant impact on the overall sodium content of the American diet," IDFA said.
Keep Current Status for Salt and Sodium
IDFA also urged FDA to maintain the current regulatory status of salt and sodium and to evaluate with care the outcomes of other sodium-reduction initiatives to avoid unintended consequences. One serious potential consequence: providing a healthier product that consumers don't buy or won't eat would offer no public health benefit and could cause companies to lose market share.
IDFA presented oral comments on sodium and cheese at a public meeting sponsored last November by FDA, FSIS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and Agricultural Research Service.
For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA consultant on nutrition and labeling, at firstname.lastname@example.org.