FDA Calls on Food Industry to Trim Sodium

Final guidance aims to lower Americans’ risk of heart disease.

October 14, 2021

Pouring Salt on French Fries

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued final guidance to drastically reduce the amount of sodium in the American diet, reports NBC News. The FDA is asking food manufacturers and restaurants to voluntarily cut the salt in their products over the coming two and a half years, hoping to reduce Americans' overall sodium intake by 12%.

The final guidance with voluntary targets “supports sodium reduction efforts already made by industry, provides common targets for defining and measuring progress, and provides companies with the flexibility and time to meet these targets,” writes the FDA.

The goal of the guidance is to reduce rates of heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. Americans consume on average 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day—nearly 50% more than the 2,300-mg limit recommended by federal guidelines for people 14 years and older. Too much sodium can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Cutting American’s sodium intake by 12% would decrease consumption to 3,000 mg. That is the equivalent of consuming 60 fewer teaspoons of salt a year. Though a 12% reduction doesn’t meet the 2,300-mg recommendation, experts says that the guidance is a good first step to address high blood pressure, according to NBC News.

The guidance will apply to more than 160 categories of processed, packaged and prepared food—including tomato sauce, dairy products and breakfast cereals—as well as meals from chain restaurants, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner, told NBC News. Different food categories will have different sodium target levels.

The new guidance finalized interim guidance that the agency issued in 2016 on the amount of salt companies should add to food.