FDA Changes to Lower Your Sodium Intake

Americans are eating too much of this mineral, and the government wants to help by reducing sodium levels in processed foods.

Did you know that just one large pickle contains nearly half of your recommended sodium intake for a single day? Or that you’d exceed that daily limit if you ate two slices of Domino’s MeatZZa Feast pizza? Excess dietary sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, which can put you at risk of heart disease and stroke. A whopping 90 percent of Americans are getting more than the 2,300 milligram maximum daily recommended amount of sodium. And 75 percent of it comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. To protect our health, the government wants us to cut out the sodium—quite literally.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a draft of new “voluntary sodium reduction targets” for processed and restaurant foods that strongly recommend that manufacturers and chain restaurants cut sodium levels in their products by as much as two-thirds for some foods within 10 years of the publication of the final guidelines. The agency also set smaller but still meaningful reduction goals to be achieved within two years. Eventually, these recommendations may become mandatory.

“If the food manufacturers adopt these targets, it will be good for consumers,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a project leader in Consumer Reports’ food testing department. “Many people who try to follow their doctor’s advice to reduce their sodium intake have trouble because of the high sodium content of many packaged and restaurant foods.” Even a small reduction in sodium can have a big impact. If everyone cut their intake by just 400 milligrams per day—the amount in 2 ½ dashes of table salt—it could prevent an estimated 32,000 heart attacks and 20,000 strokes per year, according to a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Because these are draft guidelines, they might change as the result of the feedback the agency gets from food manufacturers, consumers, and others,” says William Wallace, policy analyst at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “But we strongly encourage the FDA to hold firm, keep moving forward, and release final targets as soon as possible to help ensure that consumers can enjoy their favorite foods without extra helpings of sodium.”

Sodium Savings

If manufacturers do adopt the short term guidelines, it could make quite a dent in Americans’ sodium intake. The chart below gives you a peek at how much sodium people would save after eating different brands of these common foods. The FDA’s targets are set for 100 grams (3 ½ ounces) of a food, and they vary depending on the type of food. We list the 100-gram sodium target for each food and the current sodium content per serving of a food. Then using the weight in grams per serving (as listed on the product’s Nutrition Facts Label) we calculated the sodium target for a serving of the food, and the percentage reduction in sodium.

Sodium Savings

Product Category/Short-term Sodium Target (mg) per 100 g (3 1/2 oz) Brand Current Serving Size Current Sodium Per Serving (mg) Target Sodium Per Serving (mg) Sodium Reduction (%)
Canned Soups/ 230 mg
Wolfgang Puck Free Range Chicken Noodle Soup Organic 1 cup (245 g) 850 564 34
Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup 1 cup (242 g) 690 557 19
Amy’s No Chicken Noodle Soup (Vegan) 1 cup (245 g) 680 564 17
1,600 mg Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze 2 tbsp (36 g) 810 576 29
 900 mg Heinz Yellow Mustard, Regular 1 tsp. (5 g) 60 45 25
880 mg WishBone Italian Salad Dressing 2 tbsp (30 g) 340 264 22
Deli Meat Turkey/900 mg
Boar’s Head Oven Roasted Turkey 2 oz (56 g) 700 504 28
Hillshire Farm Black Pepper Turkey Breast 3 slices (49 g) 580 441 24
Oscar Meyer Oven Roasted Turkey 2 oz (56 g) 540 504 7
Meatless Frozen Pizzas/420 mg
DiGiorno Thin Margherita Pizza 4.5 oz (128 g; 1/4 pizza) 690 538 22
Annie’s Three Cheese Mini Pizza Bagels 3 oz (84 g; 4 pieces) 440 353 20
Newman’s Own Margherita Thin & Crispy Pizza 4.5 oz (131 g; 1/3 pizza) 650 550 15
Grain-Based Meals/750 mg
Rice-A-Roni Rice Pilaf 2.5 oz (70 g) 1,060 525 50
Near East Rice Pilaf, Original 2 oz (56 g) 780 420 46
Knorr Rice Sides Rice Pilaf 2 oz (62 g) 630 465

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