02 May Coming Soon: New FDA Sodium Policy
In a recent address to the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Conference, theCommissioner of Food and Drugs, Scott Gottlieb M.D., outlined his agency’s plan to complete, at the minimum, the first phase of the Obama Administration’s voluntary sodium-reduction targets. Effectively putting the industry on notice.
Gottlieb’s was apparent with his opening statement: “more than 630,000 Americans die every year from Heart Disease.” He went on to compare the anti-smoking efforts by the FDA to this new initiative in the interest of public health. He was quick to point out that in the past, the FDA has successfully reduced heart disease in the United States in part by anti-smoking initiatives, and these reductions were not being offset by an increase in obesity related health concerns. Obesity has become a widespread issue in the United States, partially because of a lack of a options for a clean diet. Many families settle for unhealthy diet options due to the availability and cost-effectiveness of fast food options. The FDA aims to start dismantling unhealthy diets and improving nutrition by taking down the biggest culprit first: sodium.
Later in his address, Gottlieb put the industry on notice that he aims to finalize short-term targets sometime in 2019, as well as continuing the dialogue on long-term sodium reduction. He made it extremely clear that the FDA considers reducing sodium to be a matter of utmost importance in improving public health and that sodium has a giant target on its back. His address stayed vague, stating the FDA’S intention to align their sodium targets with the National Academy of Medicine’s suggestion for the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of sodium, but stopped short of guaranteeing it; opening the door to interpretation that the FDA’s targets could be even more stringent.
The Commissioner also discussed what standardized sodium reduction would look like in our society. It’s something that must be addressed in society as strokes and heart attacks are on the rise in America. He released a terrifying statistic saying “Researchers have estimated that reducing sodium intake by one-half teaspoon a day could prevent nearly 100,000 premature deaths a year, and up to 120,000 new cases of coronary heart disease, 66,000 strokes, and 99,000 heart attacks. “
The FDA has historically never regulated sodium levels for meat or poultry products, but this effort was a part of the Obama Administration’s goals for a healthier public sodium intake policy. The goals set forth by the former Administration have raised awareness for healthy eating, and consumers are beginning to demand information regarding what they are putting in their bodies. This trend does not seem likely to dissipate, so the food industry should be prepared for the FDA to continue its plans and policies to take on sodium and other health-related dietary concerns.