The US government on Wednesday released non-binding guidelines for the food industry to slash salt levels in their products to levels considered safe by medical experts and consumer groups.
The US Food and Drug Administration is proposing two-year and 10-year voluntary targets for the industry to help Americans gradually reduce their sodium consumption. The draft guidelines are available for public comment.
“The totality of the scientific evidence supports sodium reduction from current intake levels,” said Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a statement.
Average salt intake in the United States currently hovers around 3,400 milligrams per day, and the FDA hopes the guidance will reduce that level to 2,300 milligrams per day.
A 40 percent reduction in sodium consumption in the US could save 500,000 lives and nearly $100 billion in health spending, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One in three people in the United States has high blood pressure — a condition often linked to overconsumption of salt — with one in two African Americans affected, as well as one in 10 children ages 8 to 17.
In surveys most Americans indicate that they do want eat less salt, a difficult task as most sodium intake stems from processed and pre-prepared foods.
The FDA hopes to persuade major food manufacturers and restaurant chains to reduce sodium in their products — in particular the 10 percent of packaged foods that make up more than 80 percent of all sales.
The voluntary guidelines are aimed at nearly 150 food categories that range from baked goods to soups.