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IOM Committee to Consider Ways to Reduce Sodium in American Diet

Jan 19, 2009

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened its first meeting last week to discuss ways to reduce the amount of sodium consumed by Americans in their daily diets. Working with a $1 million grant from Congress and sponsored by several federal agencies, the IOM Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake will present its final report in February 2010, around the time that the advisory committee for the Dietary Guidelines will present its recommendations.

IDFA and others in the dairy industry are monitoring the progress of both committees for several reasons. Processed foods and some dairy products, such as cheese and milk, have been identified among the top 20 sources of sodium in the American diet, based on a combination of content and frequency of consumption, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association's analysis of government data. Also, sodium is one of the priority issues facing the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

At last week's meeting, representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health and Human Services (HHS) underlined the charge to the committee to consider new government approaches, such as regulatory and legislative actions; food supply approaches, including new product development and food reformulation; and information and education strategies for the public and health care professionals. These representatives agreed that Americans are consuming too much sodium and that new measures to restrict intake are necessary.

One committee member asked others to consider what might happen if salt were to lose its status as a food additive that is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Another indicated that that committee should determine whether voluntary reduction efforts by the food industry have been or will continue to be sufficient.

"The efforts of the IOM committee and its final report will likely have a major impact on the dairy industry," said Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling. "The final recommendations could be used to set guidelines and possibly new regulations around manufacturers' use of sodium."

The IOM study is being sponsored by the CDC; the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements; and the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. A second meeting will take place March 30-31 and may include a forum where the public will be invited to comment. A third meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 18-19.

IDFA's Nutrition Working Group will begin to work on developing comments during the next several weeks. Members wishing to participate in this effort are encouraged to contact Matto at or 202-737-4332.


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