Yay! Sodium in Packaged Food Declines

The Lempert Report
July 13, 2017

Finally it seems that our food brands are listening.

A new study reports the sodium content of packaged food as well as the amount of sodium US households acquire from packaged foods have decreased significantly in recent years. 

Jennifer M. Poti, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues reported these findings in an article published online June 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.  However, "almost all US households continue to have total packaged food purchases with excessive sodium density." 

The researchers examined 15-year trends in the amount of sodium acquired from packaged foods and beverages purchased from retail food stores by using data from the 2000 to 2014 Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel on packaged food and beverage purchases by 172,042 US households and reflecting nutrition label data for 1,490,141 products.  During this time period, the amount of sodium acquired per capita from packaged food and beverages decreased by 396 mg/d - from 2363 to 1967 mg per day. Excluding beverages, the amount of sodium obtained from packaged foods per capita decreased by 260 mg per day. The sodium content of households' packaged food purchases decreased by 12% during this time period. This is great news but just the beginning and these companies are to be praised and urged to continue to reformulate their recipes using other less harmful herbs and seasonings.

The top 10 food group sources of sodium, which accounted for approximately 70% of the sodium in food and beverage purchases, were condiments, sauces, and dips; mixed dishes; salty snacks; breads; processed meat; cheese; soup; grain-based desserts; vegetables; and breakfast cereals.   

The wake up call from the authors of the study is that throughout the 15-year period, less than 2% of US households had total packaged food and beverage purchases with optimal sodium density," the authors write, noting that optimal sodium density is considered to be 1.1 mg of sodium per calorie or less. They go on to write that according to the results of simulation studies indicating that, at the population level, a reduction of this magnitude could reduce new cases of coronary heart disease by 20,000 to 40,000 and deaths from all causes by 15,000 to 32,000 annually.