Too much sodium in the diet can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most Americans get more sodium from foods and beverages than the amount recommended for a healthy diet. Most of the sodium in the US diet comes from commercially processed and restaurant foods. Reducing sodium in these foods is key to lowering the amount of sodium in the US diet. The sodium levels in these foods need to be monitored to track current public health efforts and to plan new strategies to lower the amount of sodium that Americans get from food.
The Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with other government agencies has a program to track changes in the sodium content of commercially processed and restaurant foods. This monitoring program includes these activities:
· Tracking sodium levels of ~125 popular foods, called “Sentinel Foods,” by periodically sampling them at stores and restaurants around the country, followed by laboratory analyses
· Tracking sodium levels of about 1,100 other commercially processed and restaurant foods, called “Priority-2 Foods,” every two years using information from manufacturers and restaurants
· Tracking levels of “related” nutrients that could change when manufacturers reformulate their foods to reduce sodium; these related nutrients are potassium, total and saturated fat, total dietary fiber, and total sugar
· Sharing the results of these monitoring activities to the public once a year in the Sodium Monitoring Dataset and USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and once every two years in the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies