Representative Andy Harris (R-MD)
The House Committee on Appropriations yesterday marked up the FY 2017 appropriations bill that provides funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) offered an amendment to ensure that future sodium policy enacted by these agencies is based on the most recent, relevant and accurate science available.
Harris, a medical doctor, believes federal sodium policy should be based on the current scientific evidence that considers the impact of sodium on public health. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chairman of the Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Subcommittee, spoke in support, while Ranking Member Sam Farr (D-CA) stood in opposition. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.
Congress passed similar instructions on sodium in the FY 2016 spending bill, yet FDA is reportedly moving forward on issuing guidance to food manufacturers in order to reduce sodium in various food categories.
The committee’s report accompanying the bill states, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are working together to update the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) report on sodium. The FDA is encouraged to issue any voluntary or mandatory guidance based upon an updated DRI report."
It has been over a decade since the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for sodium was considered, and in 2014, sodium was one of only four nutrients recommended to be updated.
Sodium in Schools
Another provision included in the bill passed by the House committee would delay further restrictions on sodium in the school meals until the latest scientific research establishes that the reduction is beneficial for children. USDA has significantly reduced allowable sodium levels in school meals and plans additional sodium restrictions in 2017 and 2020.
The food industry has provided many options for schools to meet the lower sodium levels, but additional reductions present a particular problem for cheeses that are standard ingredients in many popular school lunch entrees. The Senate Agriculture Committee has passed a child nutrition bill that would delay for two years, or until 2019, the next sodium reduction and require a study of the science to determine what, if any, future sodium reductions are necessary and feasible.
Further consideration of the child nutrition legislation is expected in both the Senate and House later this spring.
For more information on appropriations and child nutrition legislation, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.