FDA Reduces American Sodium Limit

Sodium is a rarely talked about cause of widespread disease. The FDA is trying to change that.

Sodium is a rarely talked about cause of widespread disease. The FDA is trying to change that. Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash.

Brined Inside

Growing up in America in the early 2000s, I don’t remember anyone warning me about my sodium intake. It seemed like calories, carbs, sugar, and anything and everything fried got the boot, but I never got any frowns reaching across the dinner table for the saltshaker or licking up white beads of excess salt from my pretzel wrapper in the middle school cafeteria. I even remember the raw sting of my salt-chapped lips after enjoying an entire bucket of movie theater popcorn by myself with a kind of fiendish delight. Instinctually, it just seemed like something I could get away with eating a lot of and suffering no consequences.

Things are different for me now. I’ve survived my Top Ramen years (undergrad) and come out on the other side with an appreciation for unsalted butter and sesame oil; you know, things that don’t make me bloat, get headaches, or feel like my blood is turning into battery acid. Live and learn.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with a penchant for sodium. Far from. As stated in an article published by Harvard Health, “salt is big business: every year, the world consumes about 187 million tons, which is both mined from the earth and claimed from the sea.” To make matters worse, the “average American consumes 55% more of it today than in 1980,” and it’s “responsible for more than 100,000 American deaths a year.”

With numbers like that on the scoreboard, finally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to crack down on sodium.

Someone’s Salty…

The FDA has recently published new goals regarding the sodium consumption of the American public. The goals are industry-oriented, meaning that the average consumer will not be impacted by them. In fact, you probably won’t notice any changes to your local grocery aisles. However, that doesn’t mean that hard work isn’t going on behind the scenes.

What’s being changed?

On average, Americans consume 3,400mg of sodium per day. The “safe” upper limit for sodium consumption is 2,300mg per day. I’m not good at math by any stretch of the imagination, but 1,100mg feels like a significant gap. A dangerous one too!

As stated in an article written by NPR journalist Allison Aubrey, “even amid the coronavirus pandemic, heart disease continues to be the nation’s leading cause of death.” And heart disease is exacerbated (if not directly caused) by high sodium levels in the blood.

To help close the milligram gap, the FDA has officially “nudged” the food industry’s biggest players to reduce the amount of salt in their packaged goods, the culprit behind more than 70% of the United States’ salt consumption. “The cuts are intended to reduce Americans’ sodium intake by about 12% over the next 2 ½ years.” Realistically, this means that your favorite snacks will either have reduced salt options added to the shelves, safe sodium substitutes will be added to the ingredients list, or the nutrition label will come with a significant salt slash.

The new sodium goals are voluntary, so if you’re worried about your beloved treats not tasting the same in the years to come, it all depends on the brand’s executives. However, in an increasingly health-conscious world, it’s safe to assume that everything we buy from the grocery store will undergo a metamorphosis. And soon.

Want to learn more about why the FDA made the cuts? Check out my follow-up article!

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About Cristin Dickey

Born in Maryland, raised in Texas, and educated in Utah, Cristin is a purveyor of stories from all widths and walks of life.  With a background in filmmaking and a staunch passion for literature, she aspires to give digital spaces a uniquely human touch.

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