Legal and Policy Resources on Public Health "Winnable Battles"
Although the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services establishes recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans related to sodium consumption; the Federal Government does not regulate sodium content in manufactured foods. Similarly, there is not a state or local jurisdiction that imposes statewide or jurisdictional limits on sodium levels in manufactured foods or prepared foods. However, some states and local jurisdictions have enacted legislation or policy to reduce sodium content in prepared or manufactured foods served in specific settings such as schools or prisons. There are also initiatives that seek to gain voluntary reductions of sodium by manufacturers in food processing and restaurateurs in food preparation.
Background Information on Sodium Reduction
- The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans should consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day. Many Americans should further reduce sodium intake to 1500 mg/day , i.e., those who are 51 years and older, and those of any age who are African American or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The CDC website provides a number of informational links and resources about sodium consumption.
- Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH and Peter A. Briss, MD, MPH co-authored an editorial titled, “We Can Reduce Dietary Sodium, Save Money, and Save Lives.” The editorial comments on research completed by Smith-Spangler and colleagues who concluded that strategies to reduce sodium intake by 9.5% in the general population would prevent hundreds of thousands of strokes and heart attacks and save more than $32 billion in medical expenses over the lifetimes of adults aged 40 to 85 who are alive today. The editorial also suggests that the very low unit cost of salt makes it likely that taxation would not be an effective strategy to reduce intake, but that package labeling and warnings can complement a strategy to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices.
- New England Journal of Medicine
- The New England Journal of Medicine published an article titled, "Compelling Evidence for Public Health Action to Reduce Salt Intake" in its February 18, 2010 issue. The authors note that a national effort to reduce daily salt intake by 3 g (1200 mg of sodium) could reduce the annual number of new cases of coronary artery disease by more than 60,000, strokes by more than 32,000, and myocardial infarctions by more than 54,000 per year. The authors estimate the annual number of deaths from any cause would be reduced between 44,000 and 92,000 and the intervention could save between $10 and $24 billion in health care costs annually.
- Yale University
- The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published information in its February 2010 newsletter about the New York City (NYC) campaign to reduce salt. Based on the population of NYC, the food industry recognizes that the NYC salt initiative could lead to modifications nationally because it would be difficult to reformulate products only supplied to NYC.
- Institute of Medicine
- The Institute of Medicine released a published report on April 20, 2010 that recommends strategies for reducing sodium intake to levels recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The committee's report, “Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States” is available on the IOM website.
- National Salt Reduction Initiative
- The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is coordinating a national effort to reduce sodium use. The National Salt Reduction Initiative calls for a voluntary goal to reduce salt levels in packaged and restaurant foods by 25% over the next five years.
- The New York Times Business section includes a January 10, 2010 article discussing New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign to reduce New Yorker’s salt intake by asking the restaurant industry to voluntarily comply to reduce sodium levels. The article also acknowledges that city officials believe it would be difficult to legislate sodium reduction.
- National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
- The NCSL has posted a legis-brief titled, “Reducing Sodium to Improve Health” which is available for purchase through their website.
- State Level Action
- New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduced a multi-sponsor bill on March 5, 2010 that prohibits the use of salt by restaurants in the preparation of food. The bill allows for courts to impose civil penalties of not more than $1000 for each violation.
- The Alabama State Board of Education enacted policy in July 2005 that establishes criteria for sodium levels in single serving snacks in school settings. Both cafeterias and vending machines offering single serving snacks must limit sodium content to less than 360 mg.
- In January 2009, Vermont enacted nutrition and fitness policy guidelines for schools that established standards related to sodium. Sodium in foods served as part of the breakfast and lunch programs must have less than 230 mg per serving unless the item is low-fat, fat free, or vegetables with sauce, and soups.
DISCLAIMER: Information available on this website that was not developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not necessarily represent any CDC policy, position, or endorsement of that information or of its sources. The information contained on this website is not legal advice; if you have questions about a specific law or its application you should consult your legal counsel.