How will the FDA’s new sodium recommendation impact the menu?

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The FDA wants Americans to eat less sodium, and restaurants, food service operators, and food manufacturers are all being asked to do their part.

Earlier this month, the United States Food and Drug Administration released the sodium recommendation, noting that “the goals of the final guideline are to reduce average sodium intake by approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg ) to 3000 mg per day, a reduction of approximately 12%, over the next 2.5 years.

“This reduction is modest,” said Lisa Eberhart, registered dietitian and co-founder of Menu Analytics in Cary, NC. 32,000 attacks per year.

While shaking less salt in a broth or sautéing can help, it’s not the total solution. “Salt is only a source of sodium,” Eberhart said. “Products like the pancake and cookie mix, chicken base, breadcrumbs, cheese, barbecue sauce and marinara sauce are all problematic. “

“Over 70% of the sodium in our diet comes from food, not the salt shaker,” said Corrie Clark, registered dietitian and project manager for CIA Consulting at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio. She also cites other culprits, including cold cuts, salad dressings, tacos, pasta and rice dishes, and soups.

Many suppliers are already reformulating their products to reduce the sodium content. “Food manufacturers have been proactively working on this for over 10 years now, but it takes time,” said Sarah Hendren, a registered dietitian who provides nutrition and regulatory services. services to restaurants, retailers and food manufacturers. “Sodium does more than add flavor to a food product. It can help improve texture, moisture retention, food safety, and shelf life. A manufacturer must ensure that these attributes are retained when reducing sodium.

Chefs, restaurateurs and foodservice operators can and should contribute to the supplier R&D process, working to help modify and reformulate products, dietitians agree. But there is also a lot that can be done in the kitchen.

A good place to start is the type of salt a chef or cook uses, said Clark, who is also a CIA graduate and assistant instructor at his alma mater.

“The sodium in salt depends on its form,” she said. “Kosher salt is less dense than table salt, so it only contains 1120 mg of sodium per teaspoon instead of 2300 mg. And sea salt, the choice of many chefs, contains 1,870 mg per teaspoon.

To increase the flavor with less salt, Clark recommends trying herbs, spices, and yeast extract. Adding an acidic ingredient can also enhance the flavor.

Cheese is another higher sodium ingredient that can be changed without compromising too much on a menu item. In a pasta dish or grilled vegetables, for example, top with small amounts of salted cheese so that customers taste first and are satisfied, ”Clark said.

“Start with the fruits at hand,” Hendren advised. “Operators need to go through the whole menu and identify the culprits, then look at where it would be easiest to reduce sodium.” This could mean changing the bread on sandwiches or using more spices and herbs in place of salt in a salad dressing, she added.

Common sense fixes can also go a long way. If you’re using canned beans, drain and rinse them “to remove 40 percent of the sodium,” Clark said. “Use unsalted butter instead of salted butter, don’t salt the pasta water and drain the marinades,” Eberhart advised.

To decrease sodium in a food product or menu item, Hendren suggests starting with a 10% reduction, then moving to 15% and 20%, tasting and evaluating throughout the process. She calls it “food renovation”.

“Renovating a food can take a year or more on its own,” she said, “then there are the consumption tests, shelf life tests and other factors that need to be done. taken into account. She thinks the two and a half years set by the FDA “is a bit aggressive in terms of time.”

Hendren also pointed out that food manufacturers should test for sodium and other nutrients in products every five years. “Food science technology has evolved and nutritional analysis is more refined,” she said.

Eberhart agrees. “Working with experts to reanalyze products for sodium content, as some of the methods used years ago are not as accurate as technology has made possible today. It just may be that the sodium levels are lower than what the label says, ”she said.

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