The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a draft guidance to reduce salt content in restaurants and packaged food.

The said proposal gives practical and voluntary salt restriction goals for the food industry. Specifically, it aims to decrease the daily salt consumption of Americans to 2,300 milligrams (0.08 ounce), as this is the amount recommended by experts and numerous scientific studies. At present, the daily average salt intake of Americans is said to be about 3,400 milligrams (0.12 ounce).

The draft guidance, which is composed of two-year short term and 10-year long term goals, also aims to add into various interventions of food manufacturers and food industry operators to decrease salt in food.

The U.S. Salt Situation

Americans consume nearly 50 percent more salt than the recommended amounts. Aside from that, one in three people has high blood pressure, which has been associated with increased levels of salt in diet and is a significant risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

Scientific evidence shows that the more salt individuals consume, the higher their blood pressure becomes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled several researches that consistently support the advantages of decreasing salt consumption. Some of these studies show that lowering salt intake by approximately 40 percent over the next 10 years could spare 500,000 lives and save almost $100 billion in medical expenses.

Although many people are willing to decrease their salt consumption, their daily situation and typical exposure to high-salt food products make their situation a whole lot difficult.

"Many Americans want to reduce sodium in their diets, but that's hard to do when much of it is in everyday products we buy in stores and restaurants," says Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. The new guidance, she adds, centers on giving back the power to the consumers so they have more improved control of how much salt their food contains and subsequently boost their health.

Focus On Food Makers

The FDA is particularly pushing food manufacturers whose products are among the most saleable in one or more types of national sales categories and in restaurants with national and regional branches.

Numbers show that less than 10 percent of packaged goods account for over 80 percent of sales. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also says that approximately 50 percent of every food dollar is spent outside the home. With this, the proposal also entails common food available in restaurants and food chains.

The Proposal

The draft guidance will include a system for identifying and measuring trends in sodium reduction within the U.S. food industry. The goal is to set up plausible and voluntary reduction targets for most food items, ranging from baked goods to soups.

The FDA thinks the short-term goal of reducing salt intake to approximately 3,000 milligrams (0.11 ounce) per day is possible, with many food products already successful in meeting them.

The draft guidance is available for public comment. FDA's Susan Mayne says the agency believes that now is the time to start a national conversation about the problem of increased salt intake.

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