Walmart backs potassium salt petition

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Walmart backs potassium salt petition
Walmart has joined a growing number of food retailers and manufacturers backing a citizen’s petition from NuTek Food Science asking the FDA to allow ‘potassium salt’ as an alternate name for potassium chloride on food labels.

The FDA’s move to include potassium as one of the nutrients that must be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel ​​(the FDA is also raising​​ the DRV for potassium from 3,500mg to an RDI of 4,700mg) - ​coupled with its new voluntary sodium reduction targets ​​- ​have focused attention on potassium chloride (KCL), a leading salt replacer.

But its name is putting consumers – who are looking for clean labels and suspicious of ‘chemical-sounding’ ingredients – off, said Walmart senior director, govt affairs, Tres Bailey in a comment​ to the FDA dated April 30.

“The use of potassium chloride helped us reduce sodium in a number of food products. Allowing food companies to label potassium chloride by its alternative name, ‘potassium salt,’ on food labels would help improve consumer understanding, acceptance and consumption of this essential nutrient.”

A friendlier name would demystify the ingredient and help the industry achieve the dual goals of lowering sodium and increasing potassium intakes, according to petitioner NuTek Food Science​​​​​ - which has patented a process that suppresses potassium chloride's metallic taste without requiring companies to add expensive flavor masking ingredients – and says consumer research shows that shoppers view ‘potassium salt’ more favorably than ‘potassium chloride.’

Petition is backed by food manufacturers and the CSPI, but opposed by The Salt Institute​

NuTek's petition is supported by Nestlé USA, the CSPI, the North American Meat Institute, the American Bakers Association, Unilever, Campbell Soup and several other manufacturers and retailers (including H.E.B.​​​ and 7-Eleven​​), but opposed by The Salt Institute​​, which said it would open up a can of worms, given that scores of ingredients have 'chemical-sounding' names.

While the FDA has yet to issue a formal response to the petition, FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb made it clear that the request is on his radar during a recent speech.

“The petitioner argued that some consumers associate the term ‘chloride’ with chlorine bleach and consequently avoid foods that have “potassium chloride” in the ingredient list," ​​said Gottlieb.

"The petitioner urged FDA to consider how naming might encourage industry to replace some sodium chloride with potassium chloride, which could provide public health benefits… We’re actively considering this request.”

Reducing sodium​​

  • The FDA plans to release updated short-term voluntary targets for industry in 2019, as well as continuing the dialogue on longer-term reduction efforts.
  • There will be public meeting in summer 2018. 

Read Dr Gottlieb's recent speech in FULL.​​

Read all the comments on NuTek's petition HERE​.

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