The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a rules change that would give the manufacturers of certain everyday foods the option to replace salt with “safe and suitable” substitutes.  The goal is to give Americans more options for reducing sodium intake, it said in a Friday statement.

FDA-regulated foods have standards of identity (SOIs) that typically determine which ingredients they must or cannot contain, and in what amounts, among other things. There are now 250 SOIs for products such as milk, milk chocolate, breads, cheeses and ketchup, the agency noted.

Most SOIs do not currently permit the use of salt substitutes. 

The rules change would allow producers of regulated processed, packaged and prepared foods to voluntarily reduce their products’ sodium content. Producers of foods that are not regulated in this way already have this flexibility, the FDA said.

Reducing hypertension

Allowing changes to the sodium content in common foods may help Americans more easily reduce excess sodium intake and lower their risk of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said. The proposed rule is part of a White House strategy to “end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030,” the FDA added.

Americans consume nearly 50% more than the recommended limit of sodium per day, which is 2,300 mg for people aged 14 years and older. More than 70% of sodium consumed in the United States is added during manufacturing and commercial food preparation, the agency noted in its rule-change proposal.

“Creating a healthier food supply, a key priority in the FDA’s nutrition work, has the potential to improve Americans’ health and reduce preventable diet-related diseases and deaths,” Califf said. “Reducing sodium in the food supply may also advance health equity. Unfortunately, hypertension and other diet-related diseases disproportionally impact underserved communities.”

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