After promoting sodium reduction to the public for decades, the FDA today proposed changes to the standards of identity for foods that include salt to permit the use of salt substitutes.
The proposed rule would provide flexibility to product developers working with products that are regulated by a standard of identity (SOI) rule. For some foods, SOIs require certain ingredients in the formulation; therefore, removing salt in favor of a salt substitute, despite being positive, would be illegal.
There are more than 250 SOI foods, including milk, milk chocolate, various breads, various cheeses and ketchup. 80 of them specify salt as a required or an optional ingredient, and these 80 SOIs are referenced in 140 other SOI foods.
The proposed rule does not list permitted salt substitutes but requires them to be “safe and suitable ingredients.” Potassium chloride is an often-used substitute, but there are others. The agency also acknowledges the functional nature of salt: “The extent to which salt can be replaced depends on the ability of salt substitutes to replace the functions of salt in food without compromising the food safety or other essential characteristics of the food.”
The proposed rule complements the goals of the FDA''s 2021 voluntary sodium reduction targets for processed, packaged and prepared foods, which sought to reduce Americans' average daily intake of sodium from the current 3,300mg per day to 3,000 per day and ultimately to 2,300mg per day.
"Today's action is another step forward in our efforts to improve nutrition and reduce chronic disease by providing manufacturers another tool to lower the use of sodium in food production,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. “This approach may help reduce Americans' sodium intake and lower their risk of hypertension, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke."
The proposed rule, "Use of Salt Substitutes to Reduce the Sodium Content in Standardized Foods," should be published shortly in the Federal Register, after which the industry and public will have 120 days to comment.