Oct. 13, 2021 – In an effort to reduce America’s rate of heart disease and obesity, the FDA on Wednesday asked the country’s food makers and restaurants to lower the amount of salt they use by 12%.

The voluntary, short-term recommendations are necessary, the agency said, because

more than 70% of total sodium intake is from salt added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation.

The new targets seek to decrease average sodium intake from approximately 3,400 mg/day to 3,000 mg/day over the next 2.5 years, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, and Susan Mayne, PhD, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement.

While the recommended daily limit for people 14 and over is 2,300 mg/day, Woodcock and Mayne said “even these modest reductions made slowly over the next few years will substantially decrease diet-related diseases."

The FDA first proposed recommendations for reducing sodium content in 2016.

Since, then a number of companies have already lowered salt content in their products, "which is encouraging, but additional support across all types of foods to help consumers meet recommended sodium limits is needed," Woodcock and Mayne said.

The new guidance represents short-term goals that the food industry should work to meet as soon as possible to help optimize public health, the agency said.

"We will continue our discussions with the food industry as we monitor the sodium content of the food supply to evaluate progress. In the future, we plan to issue revised, subsequent targets to further lower the sodium content incrementally and continue to help reduce sodium intake," Woodcock and Mayne said.

AHA: A Good First Step

While the FDA’s recommendations are a good start, the American Heart Association said much more is needed.

"Lowering sodium levels in the food supply would reduce risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and death in addition to saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs over the next decade," the organization said in a statement.

But 3,000 mg of sodium a day is still too much.

"Lowering sodium further to 2,300 mg could prevent an estimated 450,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, gain 2 million quality-adjusted life-years, and save approximately $40 billion in health care costs over a 20-year period," the AHA said.

The AHA called on the FDA to "follow today's action with additional targets to further lower the amount of sodium in the food supply and help people in America attain an appropriate sodium intake."