Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium in their food, far exceeding public health recommendations. Consuming too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, a serious health condition that is avoidable and can lead to a variety of diseases. Analysts estimate that population-wide reductions in sodium could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually. While numerous stakeholders have initiated voluntary efforts to reduce sodium consumption in the United States during the past 40 years, they have not succeeded. Without major change, hypertension and cardiovascular disease rates will continue to rise, and consumers will pay the price for inaction.
In 2008, Congress asked the IOM to recommend strategies for reducing sodium intake to levels recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In this report, the IOM concludes that reducing sodium content in food requires new government standards for the acceptable level of sodium. Manufacturers and restaurants need to meet these standards so that all sources in the food supply are involved. The goal is to slowly, over time, reduce the sodium content of the food supply in a way that goes unnoticed by most consumers as individuals’ taste sensors adjust to the lower levels of sodium.