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sizes contribute to sodium intake in addition to the sodium density of the food supply.

Use of Sodium-Related Label Claims and Advertising

As part of the common message over the past 40 years about the need for food manufacturers and, increasingly, restaurant/foodservice operators to reformulate and reduce the sodium content of their foods and to introduce new foods with lower-sodium content, it was assumed that the ability to use nutrition claims on food products would motivate food producers to offer products bearing sodium nutrient content or health claims. While declarations of the sodium content per serving of all processed foods became mandatory with the implementation of nutrition labeling in 1993, a manufacturer’s use of descriptive claims about the sodium content (i.e., nutrient content claims) and claims about the usefulness of low-sodium intake in reducing the risk of hypertension (i.e., health claims) is voluntary.

Figure 2-7 shows that nutrient content claims for sodium12 were most popular during the time the NLEA was being implemented in the early 1990s. Subsequently, their use dropped sharply, although there was a transient increase in 2000–2001. The use of sodium content claims in 2006–2007 was only slightly more than half their use in 1991–1993. Fat label claims have been the most popular, with 22.5 percent of products bearing these claims in 1997 and 17.2 percent in 2000–2001. The least used claims are fiber (2.5 and 2.0 percent in 1997 and 2000–2001, respectively) and saturated fat (3.8 and 2.0 percent, respectively).13

Information on the product categories showing the most extensive use of sodium content claims in the U.S. marketplace is periodically collected in FDA’s Food Labeling and Package Survey. Comparisons of the sales-based percentages within the top food categories that carry sodium content claims for two different time periods are displayed in Table 2-4.

In 1997, the food category with the highest number of brands carrying a sodium content claim was carbonated soft drinks and water—specifically 47.3 percent of brands in this category (Brecher et al., 2000). The percentage of two beverage categories carrying sodium content claims was considerably higher in 2000–2001, with 83.7 percent of the category titled “beverages, water” and 62 percent of the category titled “beverages, carbonated soft drinks” (LeGault et al., 2004). The data in Table 2-4 also suggest that although sodium nutrient content claims were used for diet and health benefit foods in 1997 (24.6 percent of brands in this category), this


These claims include the terms sodium free, low sodium, very low sodium, reduced sodium, no added salt, salt free, and light in sodium.


Personal communication, M. Brandt, FDA, December 17, 2008.

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