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National Restaurant Association - Study not accurate portrayal of sodium reduction efforts

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Study not accurate portrayal of sodium reduction efforts

A study on sodium intake published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine does not indicate recent progress made by the foodservice industry in developing lower-sodium items for consumers, the National Restaurant Association’s director of nutrition said.

“Restaurants have made significant progress in developing lower-sodium menu options,” said Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D. “The industry is highly diverse, including restaurants that provide a wide range of dining options. On the whole, our members have evaluated their product lines to determine the areas in which sodium can be reduced and where existing menu items can be reformulated when feasible. They have considered lowering sodium levels as part of new product development. The industry’s proactive and ongoing efforts will better enable the gradual reduction of sodium in the food supply.”

The study, conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest from 2005 to 2011, found that sodium content in 402 processed foods declined by approximately 3.5 percent and increased 2.6 percent in 78 quickservice restaurant products.

The study claimed that the reduction of sodium levels in processed and restaurant foods has been “inconsistent and slow,” but the NRA’s Dubost said that using a small sample of just 78 quickservice restaurant products is not indicative of the strides made in lowering sodium levels in all restaurants’ foods.

“Only a small number of products were sampled from a limited number of brands, versus the thousands of menu items available to consumers,” she said. “The results do not accurately reflect all available choices, including those that are lower in sodium. In general, the results do not accurately reflect the overall availability of menu items including those that are top selling.”

Dubost noted the study did not capture new menu items that are lower in sodium because the study only compared the same items between 2005 and 2011. She also stated that, “Several of the largest quickservice and fullservice restaurant companies have made public commitments to significantly reduce sodium in their offerings over the next decade, but those commitments also are not reflected in the study.”

In April, the National Restaurant Association participated in a nutrition forum with the CSPI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association that 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.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, no one should consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

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