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The public is well-aware, by now, of the health-related diseases associated with high-fat, high-sodium processed foods -- but how concerned do we really need to be? The FDA is concerned enough to change their policies on sodium levels in food production. 

Diet impacts the development of chronic diseases. When it comes to sodium, excess consumption leads to a much greater risk of developing health conditions, namely cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. The FDA notes that these conditions disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups. 

According to FDA research, people consume 50% more sodium than recommended. This includes our youngest and most vulnerable populations, with more than 95% of children aged 2 to 13 years old exceeding recommended limits of sodium for their age groups.

FDA research also suggests that about 70% of sodium intake comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, making it challenging to limit sodium.

The FDA has made changes across the overall food supply in an effort to improve access to lower-sodium options and reduce intake, even in the absence of behavior change. 

Today, the FDA made a notable policy change -- a nationwide update to sodium policies in food production and consumption.

The FDA issued a final guidance, "Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods,” which provides voluntary short-term sodium reduction targets for food manufacturers, chain restaurants and food service operators for 163 categories of processed, packaged, and prepared foods.

The targets in the final guidance seek to decrease average sodium intake from approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) to 3,000 mg per day, about a 12% reduction, over the next 2.5 years.

Although the average intake would still be above the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended limit of 2,300 mg per day for those 14 and older, the FDA maintains that gradual reductions over the next few years will substantially decrease diet-related diseases. 

The FDA offers a how-to on cutting back sodium intake

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Sodium 

  • Try to cut back on foods high in sodium, such as deli-meat sandwiches, pizza, and burritos and tacos. Remember, it’s important to cut back both when eating at home and eating out in restaurants. If you’re ordering a standard menu item at a chain restaurant, ask to see the written nutrition information and choose an option lower in sodium.

  • Compare products. Before you buy, check the Nutrition Facts label to compare the sodium content of packaged products (there’s a fair amount of variety among similar foods). For example, data collected by the FDA shows that breads can vary from 300 mg to 700 mg per 100 grams of bread. 

  • Aim to stay under the Daily Value (DV) for sodium. The DV for sodium is the recommended daily limit-- your goal is not to exceed that amount. As a general guide: 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.

  • Expand your spice horizons. Try no-salt seasoning blends and herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to your food.

  • For additional information, please visit Sodium in Your Diet | FDA.

This article originally ran on northcentralpa.com.


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