Consumer advocacy group sues FDA to compel Agency action on sodium.

  • Sodium reduction has been a hot topic for many years, with average dietary intakes remaining higher than the recommended value of 2,300 mg/day (or 1,500 mg/day for certain at-risk groups).  The food industry has embarked on voluntary efforts to reduce sodium levels in processed foods, but some stakeholders feel that this initiative has fallen short.
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has now sued FDA to compel action on a 2005 Citizen Petition requesting that the Agency revoke the conclusion that salt is generally recognized as safe (GRAS); reduce the amount of sodium in processed foods; and require a health warning on packaged salt.  The complaint alleges that FDA’s failure to act on the Citizen Petition violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
  • Although FDA has given no indication that it plans to take drastic regulatory action to address the level of sodium in the food supply, CSPI’s lawsuit comes on the heels of New York City’s first-in-nation sodium warning requirement for restaurant foods and FDA’s relatively recent revocation of the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).  The nation also is awaiting the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which will include sodium intake recommendations.  It is not clear that any of these actions or events will influence FDA action on sodium.  Nevertheless, CPSI’s lawsuit comes at a time when the debate over sodium and the use of GRAS determinations as a public health tool both are active topics; it is clear that this particular policy conversation is far from over.