Statement of CSPI Nutrition Director Bonnie Liebman

The National Academy of Medicine’s new report confirms long-standing advice to lower sodium intake, to 2,300 milligrams a day for adults and to 1,200 to 2,300 mg a day for children. Although the new recommendations are similar to earlier targets, the Academy now refers to them as Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR) intakes, because they are based on evidence that lowering sodium not only reduces blood pressure but are expected to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

The new report should put an end to efforts by some food industry groups to spread misinformation and delay vital policy solutions. Those efforts are often based on studies that find a higher risk of illness or death at low sodium intakes. Today’s report made clear that those findings have a “high risk of bias” because they are based on flawed estimates of sodium intakes.

Given that wide swaths of the U.S. population (65 to 98 percent of adults and 81 to 99 percent of children, depending on age) consume more than the new CDRRs, the new report should spur the Food and Drug Administration to finalize its voluntary sodium reduction targets for processed and restaurant foods, which supply roughly 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume. In the fiscal year 2017 through 2019 spending bills, Congress inserted a rider that ordered the FDA to put those targets on hold until the DRI report was released. That time has come.

The new report also makes clear that the Trump Administration’s recent decision to roll back sodium limits in school meals will harm the nation’s children. Schools were on track to gradually rein in high sodium levels in meals through three phases of sodium reduction over ten years, aligning school meals with safer levels of sodium consistent with the DRI. In December, USDA issued a rule delaying the second phase of sodium reductions by 7 years and eliminating the final phase entirely, dismantling the goal of protecting children from excessive salt in school foods. The report also lowered the sodium recommendations for younger school-aged children. The new NAM recommendations make clear that current amounts of sodium in school meals increase the risk of diet-related disease for children.

Today’s report reinforces and strengthens what we already know to be true. High sodium intake is dangerous for our health and consumption should be limited to no more than 2,300 mg a day for adults and lower for many children. Efforts by industry and Congress to attack the science and delay progress on cutting sodium must come to an end.