FDA Issues Voluntary Sodium Reduction Targets for Food Industry
Statement of CSPI President Dr. Peter G. Lurie
Excess sodium in the diet, particularly from packaged and restaurant foods that account for over 70 percent of sodium intake, raises blood pressure, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, and can lead to tens of thousands of early deaths and billions of dollars in health care costs per year. And for far too long, much of the food industry has done nothing about this problem, despite knowing the risks posed by diets high in salt.
That must change. And change might be more likely now that the Food and Drug Administration has finalized and released its long-awaited 2-year voluntary sodium reduction targets, first proposed in 2016. These guidelines, in part the result of a CSPI petition and lawsuit, are important because now the restaurant and packaged food industry has clear and achievable benchmarks by which public health officials and watchdog groups like CSPI can monitor the progress companies and brands make.
While we’re glad the Biden administration has released the short-term 2-year sodium reduction targets, the federal government has much more it can do to encourage the industry to adopt them, and much more it could do to educate consumers about the importance of sodium reduction. In addition, the FDA must finalize its more ambitious, long-term 10-year targets for sodium reduction, already released in draft form, and develop new intermediate 6-year targets to ensure the industry’s progress can be measured mid-way. These targets remain voluntary and, if compliance is poor, mandatory standards should be considered.