Natural Foods Merchandiser

FDA eases salt requirements for healthy foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it would allow higher levels of sodium in foods seeking a "healthy" designation than it previously has.

Prior to 1998, individual foods could use the word healthy on their labels if they contained no more than 480 mg of sodium, or 600 mg if they were main dish or meal products—a first-tier sodium level. Since 1998, individual foods had to meet the more stringent second-tier requirement of no more than 360 mg of sodium for individual foods and 480 mg for meals—at least on paper. But prior to the enactment of the 1998 rule, ConAgra petitioned FDA to reconsider its rule. FDA issued a partial stay three times, with the latest set to expire Jan 1, 2006.

?Comments from both industry and consumer advocates support the conclusion that implementing the second-tier sodium requirements would risk substantially eliminating existing ?healthy? products from the marketplace because of unattainable nutrient requirements or undesirable and, thus, unmarketable flavor profiles,? the agency noted in its rule. Eighteen comments were received, FDA reported. ?As a result of these comments, FDA has concluded that it can best serve the public health by continuing to permit products that meet the first-tier sodium level to be labeled as ?healthy,? and thereby ensure the continued availability of foods that consumers can rely on to help them follow dietary guidelines.? Another government agency, the Department of Agriculture, released its most recent guidelines in April 2005, and recommended that adults limit their sodium intake to 2,300 mg daily.

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