The National Restaurant Association recently participated in a nutrition forum with other food industry leaders, health professionals and government officials to discuss the progress made and challenges in reducing sodium in food.
The meeting, held April 1 in partnership with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, addressed how the food industry is reducing sodium content in food products, the opportunities associated with continuing this progress and the technical challenges of achieving those reductions without sacrificing consumer acceptance.
“Restaurants have made significant progress in developing lower sodium menu options for patrons,” said Dawn Sweeney, the NRA’s president and CEO. “The food and restaurant industries' proactive and ongoing efforts will better enable the gradual reduction of sodium in the food supply, which will ultimately drive us towards the goal of reducing sodium consumption by consumers.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, no one should consume more than 2,300 mg of salt per day.
According to CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson, both public health officials and food industry executives are committed to helping reduce sodium levels in prepackaged and restaurant foods.
“It is encouraging that some of the major manufacturers and restaurants are taking the problem seriously, sponsoring research, and actually lowering sodium levels in their products,” he said.
Joy Dubost, the NRA’s director of nutrition, noted that the food industry has made significant progress, particularly from a technological perspective, in reducing the amount of sodium in food items.
“Sodium reduction is part of the industry’s overall health trend,” she said, “but education is needed to ensure that consumers create demand. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Any changes have to be done in a thoughtful and science-based way. The NRA believes in voluntary measures.”
Pamela Bailey, the GMA’s president and CEO, said food and beverage manufacturers are providing consumers with more products to help them achieve optimal sodium intake levels.
“For years, food companies have been introducing new products into the marketplace containing lower sodium or with no added salt,” she said. “And although progress is being made, reducing sodium in products without affecting the taste or consumer acceptance of products is no easy task. Consumer acceptance of sodium-reduced food products is an important factor that must always be taken into consideration.”