By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 25 April, 2010
After the Institute of Medicine issued a report last week saying that Americans consume an average of 1.5 teaspoons of salt daily and calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set mandatory national standards on sodium in food, the FDA issued a counter-response.
The FDA is reviewing the IOM report and will continue working with other federal agencies and the food industry in efforts to reduce sodium levels in food. It is not, however, currently issuing regulations for food manufacturers on sodium levels.
"A story in [the] Washington Post leaves a mistaken impression that the FDA has begun the process of regulating the amount of sodium in foods. The FDA is not currently working on regulations, nor has it made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time," said an FDA statement.
Instead, food manufacturers, including seafood product makers, are self-regulating themselves by reducing sodium in their products.
Bumble Bee Foods last week said it has already made "significant sodium reductions" across its line of canned albacore and light-meat tuna products, according to a statement from the company.
The San Diego-based company's albacore products will now contain 140 milligrams of sodium per serving, a reduction from an average of 250 milligrams per serving in 2008. Sodium in its light meat tuna has been reduced to 180 milligrams per serving.
"Bumble Bee has been conducting extensive research and working to reduce sodium for almost two years. Further sodium reducing initiates are in the works for the remaining product in the Bumble Bee brand portfolio," said Dave Melbourne, senior VP of consumer marketing for Bumble Bee Foods.
The additional sodium reductions should be completed within two years, he added.
Other major food manufacturers plan to make similar sodium reduction efforts. General Mills said it is accelerating its goals to reduce sodium by 20 percent across multiple product categories by 2015. It will also continue to focus on developing new lower-sodium products.
However, concern over sodium intake has increased in recent years, but the number of consumers eating low-sodium and sodium-free foods has steadily decreased, the Chicago market research firm The NPD Group reported on Friday, citing its National Eating Trends database.
"In my 30 years of observing Americans eating behaviors, there is often a gap between what consumers say and what they do," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. "It's easier to aspire to a positive behavior than to actually do it."