According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Americans consume almost 50 percent more sodium than is recommended by experts. And most of this comes from the food we purchase, not salt shakers. In an attempt to quell sodium intake, which has been linked to high blood pressure, the FDA has presented the food industry with new, voluntary guidelines for lowering the salt content in processed and prepared foods.
This effort by the FDA could be an important step in making America a heart-healthier country. According to the American Heart Association, 80 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), which can cause serious problems, such as heart disease and stroke. By providing manufacturers with this new guidance, the FDA hopes to cut the country's sodium intake significantly over the next decade. Researchers say doing so could save half a million lives and $100 billion in healthcare costs.
U.S. News reports that the sodium reduction guidelines have two-year and 10-year goals and target 16 food categories and 150 subcategories including baby foods, salads, cereals, meat, dairy, and much more. The FDA wants to reduce sodium intake to 3000 mg per day in two years (from the current 3400 average), and to 2300 mg a decade from now.
The FDA had hoped to issue its guidelines back in 2010 when industry efforts to reduce sodium were deemed insufficient, but it was met with industry and political resistance. The voluntary nature of the new guidelines means that companies have no obligation to change their practices, though the stats provided by the FDA are hard to argue against. There is no guarantee that companies will get on board this time around, but that doesn't mean that we as consumers can't be proactive by learning to read labels and taking steps to reduce our sodium consumption.
[h/t U.S. News]