The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling for the food industry to voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in their food in updated guidance released Wednesday, a move that seeks to curtail the prevalence of diet-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity across the U.S.
The federal agency’s guidance asks food manufacturers, restaurants and food service operators to meet short-term sodium reduction targets for 163 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods.
Through these goals, the FDA aims to cut down Americans’ average salt intake by 12 percent over 2 1/2 years, specifically from about 3,400 milligrams per day to 3,000 milligrams daily.
But officials acknowledge that move would be a first step, as dietary guidelines suggest Americans ages 14 and older only consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or about a teaspoon.
Susan Mayne, the director for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said during a briefing that the agency is recommending the industry implement the targets “as quickly as possible.”
“We know that even these modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will substantially decrease nutrition-related diseases, make for a healthier population overall and lower the burden of healthcare costs in this country,” she said.
Research has consistently linked high salt intake to high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease and stroke. The FDA said its sodium reduction guidelines could help prevent such diseases, which disproportionately affect minority communities. People with these conditions can also be at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Americans on average eat 50 percent more salt than recommended, according to the agency, with about 70 percent of consumed sodium coming from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. The FDA said “changes across the overall food supply” are necessary to help Americans intake less salt.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraKamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat FDA proposes rule to offer over-the-counter hearing aids MORE said during the briefing that the “human and economic costs of diet-related diseases are staggering.”
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are learning the hard way, as they contract these chronic diseases, and they face the consequences of poor nutrition,” he said. “And so it's time for us to do much better at knowing what we're doing when it comes to the food we consume.”