Responding to the Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance on long-term voluntary sodium-reduction targets, IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation last week called for the removal of the entire cheese category from both FDA’s long- and short-term reduction goals. In comments to FDA, the groups stressed that the goals are likely to be unachievable without sacrificing product quality, food safety and other critical product attributes.

In June, FDA issued draft guidance to encourage U.S. food companies to reach voluntary sodium reduction targets for their products.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 the two-year and 10-year targets for industry to help the American public gradually reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day.

The comments, submitted last Friday, respond to FDA’s request for comment for 10-year reduction goals and reinforce earlier comments submitted by IDFA and NMPF in October for FDA’s two-year reduction goals.

 “NMPF and IDFA have significant concerns about the appropriateness, accuracy and impact of the voluntary sodium reduction targets for dairy products as proposed, and those concerns have not diminished with respect to the long-term targets,” the comments said.

They cited other submissions to FDA from the American Butter Institute, the American Cheese Society and the National Dairy Council, and reiterated the crucial role salt plays in the manufacture of process cheese and ripening of natural cheeses. Unlike other foods, sodium is not added in excess beyond the need for microbial safety, stability and physical integrity, the comments said.

They also highlighted inconsistencies between goals listed for individual cheeses and when cheese is included in a cheeseburger, urging FDA to reconsider the achievability for these targets.

“Though our efforts to find safe and effective means of reducing sodium in our products have been extensive and will continue, the dairy industry faces significant barriers to sodium reduction,” IDFA and NMPF said. “Accordingly, in good faith, we cannot agree to the proposed targets for dairy products when we cannot be assured of technology to achieve those targets within the given timeframes without compromising on product safety and quality.”

IDFA and NMPF will discuss the comments and concerns about the sodium reduction goals in detail with FDA officials in a meeting scheduled for Dec. 19.

Read the comments here.

For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at