Frito-Lay, Campbell Soup and Kraft have already made plans to reduce the amount of salt in their products. New York's restaurants may soon be faced with a new law curbing sodium content. Now, salt reduction in food is becoming a national issue.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration appears to be getting ready to mandate nationwide reductions in the sodium levels in supermarket and restaurant foods.
Lobbied by nutritionists and consumer activists, the FDA reportedly is ramping up “an unprecedented effort” to cut Americans’ salt intake, according to the Washington Post.
The agency issued a statement today denying that any official action was imminent, althought it acknowledged is has "plans" afoot "to support the reduction of sodium levels in the food supply.”
Since when did salt become a culinary villain? In processed foods, it helps taste, shelf life and even texture. Nearly 80 percent of the salt consumed by Americans is in food, not from a shaker. But the sodium in salt also leads to health problems including hypertension, making food companies' taste for salt a target of nutritionists for many years.
The U.S. government has mulled regulating sodium levels for many years. What's spurring attention now is the fact that federal agencies are in the midst of their regular five-year revision of the nation’s dietary guidelines. The Obama administration is also taking a more active interest than previous administrations, including Michelle Obama making family nutrition one of her causes.
Also this week, the Institute of Medicine – an independent agency chartered by Congress to advise the government – came out with a study indicating that the food industry hasn’t done enough to cut sodium levels voluntarily and urging the FDA to step up.
Some food brands, in addition to those cited above, already have begun reducing sodium levels in many products and positioning the new reduced-salt products with consumers.
With FDA oversight a seeming inevitability, the brands that are pro-active in cutting salt will keep themselves out of trouble – and win favor among increasingly sensitized consumers.