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FDA Asks Companies to Lower Sodium in Cheeses, Other Foods

Jun 02, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued draft guidance to encourage U.S. food companies to reach voluntary sodium reduction targets for their products. Noting that the average sodium intake per person is approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day, FDA drafted two-year and 10-year targets for industry to help the American public gradually reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day.

According to FDA, Americans eat almost 50 percent more sodium than what most experts recommend, and the majority comes from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker. Although the guidance acknowledged existing efforts by food companies, restaurants and foodservice operations to reduce sodium in foods, FDA strongly encouraged companies with products that make up a significant portion of national sales and restaurant chains that are national and regional in scope to adopt the new targets.

The draft guidance established voluntary reduction targets for many processed and prepared foods, placing them in nearly 150 categories, from bakery products to soups. The targets factor in data on consumer preferences and consider the many functions of sodium in food, including taste, texture, microbial safety, and stability.  

Cheese is one of the categories identified for sodium reduction, and it was broken into 13 groups:

  • Blue/Blue-Veined Cheese (Semi-soft)
  • Gouda and Edam Cheese (Semi-soft)
  • Processed Cheese/Cheese Food (Semi-soft)
  • Monterey Jack and Other Semi-soft Cheese
  • Cream Cheese (Soft)
  • Cheese Spreads/Other Spreadable Cheese (Soft)
  • Brie and Other Ripened Cheese (Soft)
  • Pasta Filata Cheese (Soft)
  • Feta Cheese (Soft)
  • Cottage and Other Soft Cheese
  • Cheddar and Colby Cheese (Hard)
  • Swiss and Swiss-type Cheese (Hard)
  • Parmesan and Other Hard Cheese

Cheese-based sauces and dips were listed in a separate category, and cheese-based appetizers and pizzas and sandwiches made with cheese were included with other combination foods. Butter and cream-based dips, including sour cream and cream cheese dips, also have targets, but no other dairy products were mentioned.

Cheese represents only about 8 percent of the sodium in the American diet, and many cheese makers continue to look for ways to reduce the amount of sodium needed to make one of America’s favorite foods. More facts about cheese are available here 

“Salt is a critical component of the cheese-making process as it controls moisture, texture, taste, functionality and food safety. Although salt cannot be completely eliminated, some cheeses require less than others,” said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs. “The cheese industry continues to work on process and product developments to help lower sodium — all while maintaining strict expectations for food safety and taste.”

The draft guidance was published today in the Federal Register along with deadlines for the comment periods. FDA has requested feedback from stakeholders about the short-term, or two-year, voluntary reduction targets by August 31, 2016. Comments on the long-term, or 10-year, reduction targets are due by October 31, 2016.

FDA also is seeking input from the industry on challenges posed by sodium reduction given the many functions of sodium in foods. IDFA will be working with members of the National Cheese Institute (NCI) Regulatory Committee to review the draft guidance and submit comments to FDA.

For more information, contact Frye at

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