FDA Voluntary Sodium Reduction: What Does It Mean?

An overview of the ‘FDA voluntary sodium reduction’ Initiative


The voluntary sodium reduction initiative from the FDA is intended to encourage food reformulation and new product development from industrial manufacturers with hopes of increasing food choices for American consumers who want a well-rounded diet, on par with recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines — of sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg per day for most individuals.


This effort is aligned with the industry’s current, voluntary push to reduce sodium across the range of commercially processed, packaged, and prepared foods.


Every day, Americans are getting too much sodium in their diet, and the majority comes from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker…We are recommending both voluntary short term (2 year) and long-term (10 year) targets. ~ U.S. Food & Drug Admin


According to the FDA, this voluntary sodium reduction guidance does not:

  • “Recommend specific methods and technologies for sodium reduction;
  • Prescribe how much of a sodium-containing ingredient, such as salt or sodium nitrite, should be used in a formulation (they focus on the total amount of sodium in a given food);
  • Focus on foods that contain only naturally occurring sodium (e.g., milk); or
  • Address salt that individuals add to their food.”






The FDA provides “shared goals” as metrics (mg/100g) for sodium reduction and aims to focus on the total amount of sodium in a given food, opposed to an individual sodium-containing ingredient. i.e. the total amount of sodium in a serving of frozen pancakes, opposed to focusing on the sodium content in the leavening agent within the pancake formula. 


Additionally, the FDA states that voluntary sodium reduction goals are based on the following criteria:

  • “Population-level sodium intake reduction should occur gradually to allow time for voluntary product reformulation;
  • Population-level sodium intake reduction should occur at a pace such that consumer preferences and expectations for saltiness in foods can adjust over time;
  • Change should not negatively affect the nutritional quality of the foods by modifying other nutrient levels (e.g., added sugars or saturated fat) to less-healthy levels (e.g., taking into account all Dietary Guidelines recommendations and FDA policies);
  • Population-level sodium intake reduction will involve ongoing voluntary efforts led by the food industry, in collaboration with FDA, our Federal partners and other stakeholders;
  • Goals should be expressed in a way that supports ongoing efforts to track modifications to the sodium content of the food supply over time;
  • Change is contingent upon broad participation by, and evenly distributed impact upon, the food industry;
  • Population-level sodium intake reduction can be advanced through both the categorization of the food supply based on relevant data and information (e.g., ingredient similarity, technical effects in the food, role in food safety, and range of sodium concentrations in marketed products) and the use of voluntary objectives.”

Click here for more info about this voluntary sodium reduction initiative from the FDA.