FDA Releases Sodium Reduction Final Guidance

10/13/2021 - Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued final guidance for the food industry providing voluntary, short-term (2.5 years) sodium reduction targets for commercially processed, packaged and prepared foods to help address the high levels of sodium in the U.S. food supply. The sodium reduction targets have been designed to support decreasing Americans’ average daily sodium intake, from 3,400 milligrams to 3,000 milligrams (a reduction of about 12%).

Because more than 70 percent of Americans' total sodium intake is from sodium added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation, the Academy supports industry-wide efforts as an essential component of successful population-wide sodium-reduction initiatives to improve health. The Academy provided input and recommendations to the FDA's request for comment on the draft voluntary sodium reduction guidelines, including:

  • The upper bounds for categories should be maintained as they provide specific guidance on individual products and ensure that foods do not contain unsafe levels of sodium. The maximums also enable consumers and health officials to identify foods with excessive sodium and to determine whether companies are complying with this element of the program.
  • Many restaurant meals contain one or even several days' worth of sodium, though the amount of sodium per 100 grams might meet FDA's targets. Therefore, the FDA should set maximum sodium levels for three major food categories (Sandwiches, Mixed Ingredient Dishes, and Other Combination Foods) for a whole serving as well as inclusion of sodium values per 100 gram servings.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services should seek funding for a national, comprehensive public education campaign that includes all stakeholders and especially focuses on the communities most at risk from consuming excessive sodium.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish comprehensive sodium monitoring activities in communities at high risk for hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, including biennial nationally representative 24-hour urinary sodium tests.
  • Sodium monitoring should specifically enable sufficient monitoring and assessment of at-risk communities and populations. These activities are necessary to maximize the potential public health benefits that could be achieved by significantly reducing sodium intake — as many as 44,000 to 92,000 deaths from heart attacks and strokes could be prevented each year and potential health-care-cost savings range from $10 billion to $24 billion annually.

Consuming too much sodium can increase the risk of developing hypertension, which leads to increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Currently, Americans 14 and older are consuming on average 50% more than the recommended level of sodium intake; more than 95% of children aged 2 to 13 years old are consuming more than recommended limits of sodium for their age group. Diet-related chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with racial and ethnic minority communities experiencing disproportionally higher rates of death and disability. These voluntary sodium reduction targets provide an important next step in public health solutions to address the health concerns related to excess sodium consumption.

The Academy applauds the FDA's final guidance on voluntary, short-term sodium reduction targets and looks forward to providing recommendations for consideration in the long-term sodium reduction targets.