The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is embracing a nutritional policy that aims to reduce national salt intake and redefine healthy food choices among consumers.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced on Thursday that the agency is gearing toward reducing salt consumption and improving food packages.
Gottlieb also mentioned that FDA is looking to revise its policies on tobacco. He added that these current programs follow through the efforts initiated by former president Barack Obama.
"Like our efforts to reduce tobacco use, our work in nutrition can do much to reduce the burden of chronic disease and the early death we see as a result of avoidable illness," said Gottlieb.
Reducing Salt Intake
The FDA is cracking down on the public's salt consumption, saying that it is the leading cause of hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks. Gottlieb said they are aiming to reduce sodium intake by one-half teaspoon daily, which can potentially prevent about 100,000 premature deaths per year.
The FDA is proposing a short-term plan to reduce the daily salt allowance of 2,300 to 3,000 milligrams from the current 3,400 milligrams. This new proposal is in line with the Dietary Reference Intake recommended by the National Academies.
Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute, described FDA's actions as intrusive, adding that the agency is trying to recommend its own recipe to basically every food manufacturer in the country.
Meanwhile, the FDA is heeding petitions to implement better labeling of food packages to enable consumers to make informed decisions. For example, Gottlieb said they are talking to food companies identify salt content using clearer terminologies other than potassium chloride.
The food and drug regulation office wanted to help consumers identify healthy choices by placing a standard icon or symbol in packages.
The current FDA administration also intends to keep the Nutrition Facts update initiated by Mrs. Obama after 18 months of implementation delay. Gottlieb also urged restaurants to post calorie counts on their menu.
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food politics at New York University, called FDA's efforts revolutionary, although she said it is interesting to know how far the agency is willing to go.
Food companies are expected to comply with the new label beginning January 2020 that will include full disclosure of sugar contents. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer watchdog, remains positive that the FDA's nutrition plans will make it easier for the public to choose and eat healthier diets.
"We're disappointed that updated Nutrition Facts labels will not be in place until January 2020 for large companies, but, given the Commissioner's strong statements about nutrition and that the updated labels are already on thousands of products in stores, we expect that the label format won't be weakened," CSPI wrote on its website.