In a general recommendation announced Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration urges food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the salt content of their products to cut Americans’ sodium intake by 12%.
Ranging from condiments to chips and deli meats to store-bought baked goods, the voluntary recommendations apply to 163 categories of processed, packaged and prepared foods, which make up the bulk of sodium in Americans’ diets, the voluntary recommendations said. FDA in its announcement.
Over the next two and a half years, the agency aims to reduce average sodium intake from 3,400 to 3,000 milligrams per day, which is still significantly above the federally recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams. This works out to one teaspoon per day, which can be found in about two slices of pizza, 20 chicken nuggets, or two tablespoons of soy sauce.
Limiting sodium in the diet can help prevent health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease that result in “hundreds of thousands of lives lost and billions in annual health care costs,” the FDA said.
The agency added that the pandemic has amplified the need to reduce sodium intake, as people with many of these health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, are at increased risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19. .
“The dichotomy of living in a fast-paced world, eating on the go, relying on packaged foods and mindless eating inevitably leads to a diet high in salt, sugar and fat,” said Sharon Zarabi, dietitian and program director at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health in New York. “It’s the trifecta of chronic disease.”
The FDA said sodium reductions should be gradual so people don’t continue to turn to the higher sodium options they’re now used to. As it monitors progress, the FDA will continue to issue targets to get closer to the recommended sodium limit.
“We know that even these modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will dramatically reduce food-related illnesses,” the FDA said in its Wednesday announcement.
“This iterative approach will help support incremental reductions in sodium levels across the food supply so that consumer tastes adjust, health outcomes improve, and no company or category of foods either singled out or scrutinized, ”the agency added, noting that similar approaches have been successful in Canada and the UK.
A large portion of Americans’ sodium intake comes from deli sandwiches, pizzas, burritos and tacos, soups, salty snacks like chips and popcorn, pasta dishes, burgers and egg dishes, the FDA said. About 70% of the sodium in Americans’ diets comes from packaged foods or foods from restaurants.
This makes it difficult for people to make changes themselves to reduce their sodium intake, Zarabi said.
“Until the FDA and regulatory agencies step in, we will have an uphill battle,” she told USA TODAY.
“It’s a great first step, but it still doesn’t solve our metabolic crisis,” she added. “Suggesting is not compulsory and food manufacturers need more regulations in our country. “
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The human body needs small amounts of sodium, but Zarabi said that half of the sodium consumed by Americans “is of no use.”
“The food industry uses excessive amounts of salt to preserve and increase the shelf life of products and increase palatability, which encourages us to consume more products, thereby creating loyal consumers and excessive intake, all to the detriment of of our health, ”she said.
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The FDA has solicited comments from the food industry, including the National Restaurant Association and the American Frozen Food Institute, for a 2016 draft of its guidelines.
Experts say some companies have resisted sodium reduction targets, and the effectiveness of the guidelines depends on how the FDA monitors progress.
Dr Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the voluntary guidelines can put pressure on companies to make changes to avoid stricter regulations.
“If it turns out the impact isn’t what we hoped for, I think it’s back to the drawing board, and mandatory cuts are on the table,” he said. .
How to reduce sodium in your diet
The FDA encourages individual action by talking to doctors, reading food labels, asking for nutritional information at restaurants, and choosing low sodium options.
Here are some ways to reduce sodium in your diet, according to the FDA and Mayo Clinic:
►Eat more fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium.
►Buy fresh meat instead of breakfast meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham. Check the labels or ask your butcher if your poultry and meat have been injected with solutions containing sodium.
►Prepare your own food when you can rather than relying on prepackaged, prepared, instant or restaurant foods.
►Try seasonings like herbs and spices that don’t contain salt to add flavor to meals.
►Rinse canned foods like beans, tuna and vegetables to remove some sodium before eating.
►Choose products that are low in sodium. Replace snacks like chips and pretzels with no salt added nuts, carrots or celery. Replace bottled dressings with adding oil and vinegar to salads and watch your condiment intake.
►Try to avoid products containing more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
►Learn the lingo used on food labels. Foods low in sodium can still contain a significant amount of sodium. Here is a practical guide from the FDA.
Contribution: The Associated Press
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.