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IDFA Voices Many Concerns to NYC Sodium Reduction Initiative

Sep 21, 2009

IDFA filed comments today with a New York City-led consortium that has asked dairy manufacturers to reduce the sodium in cheese products by 15 percent to 25 percent over the next five years. In the comments, IDFA explains that reducing sodium content without considering its impact on nutrition, food safety, flavor and consumer preference is not practical and could even be dangerous.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene joined with other local and state governments and public health organizations to form the New York City National Sodium Reduction Initiative. The group's overall goal is to reduce the amount of sodium in the American diet by 20 percent by 2014. The group met in July to discuss a proposal for food manufacturers to reduce sodium in dairy foods, specifically cheese, on a voluntary basis. IDFA filed its comments in response to the proposal.

IDFA stressed the importance of adhering to current standards of identity, noting that for some cheeses, the standards would not allow the amount of reduction called for by the group. The comments also question the validity of the data used to calculate current sodium content in cheese and recommended using a variety of market resources to develop a more accurate and robust database.

In addition, IDFA addressed the issue of hypertension, noting that a balanced, well-rounded diet that considers the careful electrolyte balance offered by sodium, potassium and other nutrients offers consumers the best health outcome. The comments added that shelf-life and food safety are also affected by the use of salt in dairy products.

"Cheese has proven to be an overwhelmingly safe food over centuries of consumption," the comments state. "Forcing a change in the salt content of cheese would impact their safety and would require additional approaches, either different processes or new ingredients, to replace this food safety effect."

In closing, IDFA acknowledged that while dairy manufacturers are working to develop lower sodium options, an across-the-board reduction would not be feasible given the group's aggressive timetable.

Read the comments here. For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling, at or 202-737-4332.

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