ing of the food contains 33 percent of the DV. As outlined earlier in this discussion, the DV declarations within the Nutrition Facts panel play an important role in informing consumers about the nutritional content of the packaged foods they purchase by placing the food’s nutritional contribution within the context of a total daily diet, the general target toward which consumers should strive. Therefore, the expectation is that the DV declarations will be consistent with the best thinking about the desirable composition of a daily diet.
As described above, the NLEA also directed FDA to establish the standards for which manufacturers could make claims on food labels. In 1993, FDA, in implementing the NLEA, made provisions for nutrient content claims, which specify how much sodium packaged foods may contain in order to bear declarations such as “sodium free,” “low sodium,” and “reduced sodium.”27 The thresholds for these claims are summarized in Table 7-1. Again, USDA made similar provisions for meat and meat products (USDA, 1993).
While the claim that a food is “healthy” is an implied nutrient content claim, it is in a slightly separate category, because the levels of certain nutrients besides sodium (specifically fat, saturated fat, fiber, cholesterol, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, protein, and fiber) are also taken into account in determining whether a food can be labeled as “healthy.” As mentioned previously, the history of “healthy” claims provides a lesson for strategies to reduce sodium intake.
The term “healthy” for label claims was defined and regulated beginning in 1994 (HHS/FDA, 1994). When the rules were first issued in 1994, foods making the claim were to contain no more than 480 mg of sodium per serving or, in the case of packaged meals and main dishes, no more than 600 mg. In response to the recognized need to allow for a stepwise reduction in sodium to foster consumer acceptance and allow time for technological adjustments, the rules stipulated that after January 1, 1998, the levels of sodium permitted for a “healthy” claim were to drop to 360 mg and 480 mg, respectively.