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FDA Should Set Limits for Sodium, Report Says

Apr 23, 2010

A report released on Wednesday by an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee urged the Food and Drug Administration to set regulatory limits on sodium used in food. The Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake said limits on sodium should be implemented gradually, in steps, to reduce the amount consumed by Americans to the level recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That level currently is 2,400 milligrams a day.

According to the report, these limits should apply to a variety of packaged foods and foodservice products, including cheese. The committee did not target any one specific food or food group, but included information on the sodium content of cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products.

While this report is not a mandatory regulation or law, it could be used by regulators or legislators as a guide to developing requirements on sodium. IDFA has learned that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have already expressed positive interest in the recommendations made in the report.

The committee decided to recommend a regulatory and mandatory strategy of lowering the sodium levels in foods in steps because members believe that would keep all food products on a level playing field. They fear voluntary reductions taken by only a few companies could leave lower-sodium products at a competitive disadvantage based on consumer taste preferences. The step-by-step manner of the change is intended to allow consumer tastes to adjust to lower levels of salt and sodium in all products over time, although they offered no evidence that this would actually occur.

The report also recommended changing the qualifying levels for sodium nutrient content claims and reducing the Daily Value used in the Nutrition Facts panel to complement a lower recommended sodium intake. In addition, the report encouraged the food industry to continue its voluntary efforts to reduce sodium in foods and public health organizations to take actions that help support the reduction of sodium.

Reaching 480 pages, the report presented significant background information on sodium intake and hypertension in the United States, the functional uses of salt and sodium in foods, and an analysis of past attempts to reduce sodium in the food supply.

Read a summary of the IOM report here.

For more information, contact Michelle Matto, assistant director for nutrition and regulatory affairs at (202) 732-4332 or


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