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TABLE 7-1 Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims for Sodium




Reduced or Less



Less than 5 mg per serving

140 mg or less per servinga (140 mg or less per 50 g if serving is small)

At least 25% less sodium per serving than an appropriate reference foodb

“Light” (for sodium-reduced products): if food is “Low Calorie” and “Low Fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50%

(21 CFR 101.61 and 9 CFR 317.361)

Contains no ingredient that is sodium chloride or generally understood to contain sodiumc

“Light in Sodium”: if sodium is reduced by at least 50% per servinge

“Very Low Sodium”: 35 mg or less per servingd (35 mg or less per 50 g if serving is small)

Reference food may not be “Low Sodium”

“Lightly Salted”: 50% less sodium than normally added to reference food and if not “Low Sodium,” so labeled on information panel

“Salt Free” must meet criterion for “Sodium Free”

NOTES: g = gram; mg = milligram.

aMeals and main dishes: 140 mg or less per 100 g.

bFor meals and main dishes: at least 25% less sodium per 100 g.

cExcept if the ingredient listed in the ingredient statement has an asterisk that refers to a footnote clarifying that the presence of the ingredient adds only a trivial amount of the nutrient in question.

dFor meals and main dishes: 35 mg or less per 100 g.

eNutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. Public Law 101-535, 104 Stat 2353.

SOURCE: Adapted from FDA, 2008a.

This level of reduction reflects about a one-third decrease in a single step within 4 years. Yet it appears to have been problematic. In 1997, FDA was persuaded to postpone the reduction in sodium requirements based on comments that indicated technical difficulties in finding suitable alternatives for sodium and claimed that consumers would reject certain so-called “healthy” products made with lower levels of sodium or salt substitutes. The comments also voiced technological concerns with reducing sodium in food products, such as impacts on microbial safety, changes in texture and water-binding capacities, and effects on flavor characteristics of other ingredients (HHS/FDA, 1997, 2005). These comments concluded that the more stringent sodium thresholds would risk substantially eliminating existing “healthy” products from the market because of unattainable nutrient requirements or unmarketable flavor profiles. Thus, the sodium limits of 480 mg per serving and 600 mg for meals or main dishes remain in effect today, and plans to revise or reinstitute the stepwise process have not been announced.

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