IFT Offers Scientific Perspective on Reducing Sodium Consumption

January 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC—The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently submitted comments to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) offering scientific perspective and practical insights on reducing sodium consumption in the United States.  IFT supports the continued effort to reduce sodium levels in food; however, there are multiple challenges incurred with reducing sodium in foods that impact product attributes, such as taste, texture, nutrition, product structure, but most importantly—the safety of the food.

"Our community of food professionals is excited to join in a coordinated research and outreach endeavor that maximizes private-public partnerships focused on reducing sodium intake and the risk of hypertension in the United States," said IFT President Roger Clemens, DrPH.

In written commentary submitted to the federal agencies, IFT focused on four key areas, including sodium reduction technological innovations and challenges; monitoring sodium content for assessing sodium reduction initiatives; establishing and meeting voluntary sodium reduction targets; and communications issues involving government, the food industry and consumers. 

Some key conclusions include the following: 

  • IFT believes that investing in food-based solutions for sodium reduction will stimulate meaningful, safe and sustainable impacts on sodium intake in the United States.
  • There is an ongoing need to build on our understanding of what is feasible and safe for establishing voluntary sodium reductions in key food categories.
  • While focusing on sodium reduction, food scientists and technologists must be supported to pursue comprehensive ways to improve nutrient dense foods and beverages at affordable prices.
  • Public funds should focus on those research questions with the greatest potential to accelerate technological innovations in sodium reduction.
  • Any monitoring programs and evaluation processes must integrate the expertise and experience of food scientists and food technologists, while also strengthening the ability of sodium reduction data. To develop a strong, strategic, and sustainable sodium reduction initiative, IFT believes well-thought out public investments must occur in our nation's data sources and monitoring approaches. 

IFT recognizes that emerging sodium reduction techniques, such as salt substitutes and salt taste enhancement, may help Americans meet the Dietary Guidelines.  During the last three decades, food scientists have made significant progress in lowering the levels of sodium chloride—the most common form of sodium—in key food categories, while maintaining the integrity and acceptance of the product.

Evidence suggests gradual, step-wise reductions in our food supply will have the most success on short- and long-term consumer acceptance of lower sodium foods. IFT cautioned the federal government about reducing sodium "too far, too fast" since research to date is premature on the short- and long-term ramifications of population-wide sodium reductions initiatives. For example, there is a limited understanding of the physiological response and consumer acceptance of sodium reduction strategies in non-clinical populations, and for a variety of subgroups such as age, gender, race, health status, and activity level. More research is needed to understand the short- and long-term health effects of diets under 1,500 mg/day.

The full comments IFT submitted are available here.

###

About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.