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Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States
sodium replacements and the possibility that the reductions needed to make label claims were relatively large and may have challenged manufacturers’ abilities to make palatable products for consumers who generally have taste preferences tuned for saltier foods. As a result, consumers that did make an effort to try these products found them unacceptable and producers shied away from using such claims. In addition, there are those who would hypothesize that reformulation efforts to reduce other emerging nutrients of concern like fat and calories may have drawn the industry’s focus away from sodium reduction. In fact, such efforts may have even discouraged active efforts to reduce sodium because salt is a useful ingredient for improving the taste and flavor attributes of reduced-fat and reduced-calorie products.
It would now be useful to carefully examine the factors that are important to motivating consumer change in the area of sodium reduction which, when coupled with the overarching effort to reduce the sodium content of the food supply, inform the activities needed to assist consumers in selecting diets more in line with overall sodium intake reduction. Understanding and working with the interface between consumers and the food environment is critical to the success of such efforts.
THE CONSUMER WITHIN THE FOOD ENVIRONMENT
Previous chapters of this report include discussions on the lack of success in motivating consumers to make dietary changes that result in meaningful sodium intake reduction. Such reductions could be perceived as requiring consumers to accept relatively unpalatable foods or make special dietary changes, such as increasing intake of fruits and vegetables or decreasing calories. To achieve even the highest recommended limit of sodium intake of 2,300 mg/d, the average adult would have to cut daily salt intake by at least one-third. In the current food environment, this would require complex and sustained behavior changes, such as tracking and adding the sodium content of all foods eaten over the course of a day and making other special dietary changes. Past initiatives placed considerable, if not the primary, burden on the consumer to act to reduce sodium intake. Going forward, the possibility has been raised that gradual changes in the food supply are likely to help consumers become acclimated to foods lower in sodium, especially if these reductions occur across a broad range of foods and thus significantly assist in lowering sodium intake. Even with a focus on changes in the food supply, it must nonetheless be recognized that consumers would still have a role to play in decreasing sodium intake, and efforts to promote changes in consumer behavior would be worthwhile.
Not surprisingly, a variety of factors influence consumers’ food choices and actions to decrease their sodium intake. Studies of food choice behav-