- The amount of sodium in U.S. packaged foods fell significantly from 2000 to 2014, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- The researchers looked at data from a nationwide survey of packaged food purchases among 172,042 households. They found a 12% reduction in sodium content over the 15-year period, with the largest drop since 2005.
- The reduction per person was nearly 400 mg per day, but 90% of Americans still exceeded recommended limits for sodium intake from 2009 to 2012. The authors concluded that despite current voluntary initiatives and companies’ sodium reduction pledges, a more concerted effort is needed to reduce sodium intake in the United States.
Food manufacturers have been under increasing pressure to cut sodium content in their products as its link with high blood pressure has become well-established. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans get more than 75% of their sodium from processed foods.
Companies now have an extensive toolbox of sodium reduction approaches at their disposal, from ingredients ranging from hollow salt crystals and alternative salts to umami-boosting products like mushroom extracts and herbs. However, salt is a difficult ingredient to replace, as it has functions beyond flavor alone. It improves shelf life, enhances textures, and it binds water in products like processed meats, helping to prevent moisture and fat loss.
However, industry efforts to reduce sodium in the U.S. and elsewhere have shown that significant reductions are possible — even in product categories like cheese and bakery that traditionally relied on salt for its functional roles.
Meanwhile, consumers are concerned about their sodium intake. About 58% of Americans say they look at the sodium content of foods when grocery shopping, according to CDC research. This concern is likely to continue to spur food manufacturers to explore different approaches to sodium reduction, especially as more Americans are told they need to reduce their sodium intake still further.
Americans' current average daily sodium intake is about 3,400 mg per person.The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy diet. A lower limit of 1,500 mg per day is suggested for those with or at risk for hypertension — a group that accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. population.