Sodium reduction, providing smaller portion sizes, and better portion labeling are key areas for food industry action in light of the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the advisory committee chair.
At the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston last week, chair of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Linda Van Horn, and chair of its Carbohydrates and Protein Subcommittee Joanne Slavin outlined some of the main findings of the DGAC and how research has shifted nutrition evidence since the 2005 guidelines were issued.
FoodNavigator-USA.com spoke with Van Horn about which aspects of the guidelines were likely to have the most impact on the food industry.
“First of all, sodium,” she said. “The food industry has been running rampant on sodium for a long time, but now is the time for them to reduce sodium – and not sacrifice taste. I believe American ingenuity can do it.”
Several attendees following the presentation expressed concern that reducing daily sodium consumption to below 1,500mg per person could prove to be difficult – especially considering that only 9.6 percent of the population meets the current recommendation of 2,300mg per day. However, this is an area in which the food industry has already made a significant effort, with many major companies pledging to cut sodium within certain timeframes.
Van Horn said that companies are also aware that if they don’t find a way to reduce sodium without affecting consumer acceptance, their competitors will.
She added: “Because of the obesity problem we need to look at calories, so the other big issue is portion size.”
Asked how food manufacturers should help Americans reduce portion size, whether through better labeling or by reducing actual product size, she said: “I think it has to be both.”
In particular, Van Horn and Slavin highlighted the inclusion of two new chapters in the upcoming guidelines, which are expected to be published by the year’s end or, at the very latest, early next year. These chapters address the concept of ‘total diet’, moving away from a purely nutrient-focused approach; and that of the ‘translational diet’, which attempts to explain how the dietary guidelines could be adapted to dietary preferences, such as vegetarianism, or the dietary requirements of various religions.
And for the first time, the scientific evidence used to develop the latest guidelines is available online via the Nutrition Evidence Library, accessible here .