30 Years On...Salt Talks

The Lempert Report
January 30, 2015

Are we still just as confused about salt?

This week we celebrated the first edition of The Lempert Report newsletter by highlighting stories we write about when we launched, 30 years ago. One of those stories? Salt! The FDA's new ruling requiring sodium content disclosure on all nutrition labeling was going into effect that year, and as a result, we predicted that we'd see  a steady growth in reduced sodium products. Particular interest was in areas like frozen dinners which generally packed a serious salt punch with up to 2000mg of sodium per meal. 

But also of interest to us was the continuing consumer confusion when it came to sodium descriptors and FDA guidelines, for example, according to the FDA, sodium free would count as less than 5 mg per serving, very low sodium would be 35 mg or less per serving, low sodium - 140 mg or less per serving and reduced sodium equaled a 75% reduction in sodium content. 

30 years later the FDA has added a few more descriptions, which may be making things even more confusing for the average consumer. We now also have "light in sodium" which indicates that the product contains at least 50% less sodium than the standard version, “Unsalted” or “no salt added” indicates that no sodium (salt) is added to the product during processing, but the product still contains the sodium that naturally occurs in the product’s ingredients and then If a product is labeled as “healthy”, it must contain no more than 480 mg sodium for an individual food item (like a snack food), or no more than 600 mg for a meal or main dish (like a frozen dinner). Today there's still generally a lot of confusion over our salt intake. What's too much? Is eating too little bad for you? The American Heart Association says 90 percent of Americans consume too much salt, and 1 in 3 have high blood pressure. The recommended daily sodium intake, according to the FDA, is 2300 mg, but then the AHA recommends 1500 mg.  Perhaps in another 30 years we'll know!