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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Monitoring Sodium and Selected Nutrients in U.S. Foods

Location: Nutrient Data Laboratory

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
With the increased emphasis on reducing sodium in U.S. diets, NDL and the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS will pursue a collaboration to review and update the estimates for sodium and selected other nutrients in foods and to monitor possible changes in sodium levels, particularly in processed and prepared foods, over time. The NDL will update the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference with new values for sodium in the Key Foods for sodium which together contribute up to 80% of the sodium in the U.S. diet.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
NDL will 1) identify Key Foods (e.g., sentinel foods), including restaurant and processed forms, which collectively contribute up to 80% of the sodium in the U.S. diet; 2) develop estimates for sodium in the Key Foods, including selected processed and restaurant foods, through analysis, acquisition of industry data, or label estimates; 3) develop a detailed plan for monitoring changes in sodium levels in specific food types in response to possible industry reformulations during 2010-2015; 4) update, maintain, and disseminate databases for the selected nutrients in high priority foods consumed by the U.S. population; and 5) determine the reliability of labeled values for sodium in selected foods which have standard Nutrition Facts panels. (This will not apply to many restaurant foods.)

3. Progress Report:
Public health research has shown dietary sodium is a contributing factor in the development of hypertension and cardiovascular health. Most of the sodium we eat comes from commercially processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. According to the 2010 Institute of Medicine report “Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States,” national action is needed to reduce the sodium content of the foods. A key recommendation of the report was to enhance monitoring and surveillance relative to sodium intake measurement and sodium content of foods. The Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agricultural Research Services’ (ARS) Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG) has developed a plan to monitor levels of sodium in commercially processed and restaurant foods. As part of the monitoring plan, about 125 selected commercially processed and restaurant food items, termed ‘Sentinel Foods,’ will be tracked as indicators to assess the changes in the sodium content of the food supply. NDL has been monitoring nutrient profiles of these Sentinel Foods through nationwide sampling and analysis, using standardized validated procedures under the USDA National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program (NFNAP). The Sentinel Foods were selected based on the dietary data from the national survey, What We Eat in America (WWEIA), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). These foods accounted for approximately 36% of total sodium intake in WWEIA, NHANES 2007-2008. However, due to high cost of nationwide sampling and analysis of foods, changes in sodium values for other commercially processed and restaurant foods (~1200 food items) will be monitored through information obtained directly from manufacturers or restaurant chains and their websites or changes in the Nutrition Facts Panel values. During 2012-2013, about 47 Sentinel Foods were analyzed, hence completing baseline analyses of all Sentinel Foods. In addition, 30 additional sodium contributing foods were analyzed for processing WWEIA, NHANES. Inclusion of these foods will provide better representation of sodium intakes, since the nutrient content of many of these commercial processed foods were previously estimated by calculations from recipes intended for at-home preparation and consumption. Through the National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program, NDL will generate data for sodium and other nutrients (e.g., total sugar, potassium, total and saturated fat) which may be affected by the reformulation of processed foods to reduce sodium. With the support of the CDC, FDA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Sentinel Foods will be re-analyzed over next 4-8 years based on budget and priority of re-analysis. An algorithm using 3 criteria were used to prioritize the foods - frequency of consumption in WWEIA, NHANES, potential for possible reduction, and history of change in the marketplace. Review of Sodium and other nutrients from the Nutrition Facts Panel and other sources was completed for ~1200 foods. These updated sodium and other related data will be released annually through SR (SR 26 in August, 2013) and on a separate ‘Sodium Monitoring’ section of the NDL website. This will provide CDC an early and essential indication of how sodium and related nutrients are changing in the US food supply, and will focus further investigations and assessment. The updated data will be used to provide FSRG a dataset for the 2011-12 WWEIA, NHANES providing improved and accurate assessment of sodium intake, and an early indication of how consumers are responding to the changes in the US food supply. Changes in sodium content of foods will also be topics of presentations at national meetings and for peer-reviewed publications.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 08/16/2017
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