Campbell Soup to FDA: The term ‘potassium chloride salt’ is not consumer friendly

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Campbell Soup: "The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."
Campbell Soup: "The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."

Related tags Potassium chloride Salt Sodium reduction Salt reduction

The FDA’s proposal to permit the term ‘potassium chloride salt’ on food labels as a more consumer-friendly alternative to ‘potassium chloride’ has not gone down well with Campbell Soup, which favors the term ‘potassium salt.’

Food manufacturers, retailers, and public health advocates backed a citizen’s petition​ filed by NuTek Food Science in 2016 urging the FDA to allow the term ‘potassium salt’ as an alternative to ‘potassium chloride’ on food labels to help demystify the popular salt replacer for consumers.

The FDA - which acknowleged that wider use of potassium chloride as a salt replacer could help it achieve its dual goals of reducing sodium intakes and increasing potassium intakes - finally responded to the petition in May 2019 with draft guidance​ proposing the term ‘potassium chloride salt’ as a compromise.

Given that the term 'chloride' is what prompted industry calls for a change in labeling terminology in the first place, the FDA's suggestion baffled many observers, Campbell Soup told the agency in a public comment​ ​published this week. 

Campbell’s research shows that ‘potassium chloride salt’ has the same negative, ‘chemical-sounding’ connotation as ‘potassium chloride’​” and that using this new term on labels “would therefore be unlikely to achieve FDA’s public health goals​.”

Consumer research conducted after the release of the FDA’s draft guidance shows that purchasing intent is significantly lower for a product with ‘potassium chloride salt’ [which shoppers associate with chlorine and cleaning products] vs a product with ‘potassium salt,’ Campbell Soup told the agency:

The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."

Noting how "difficult it is to recall a public health issue on which there is such a high degree of agreement among food manufacturers, retailers, and public health advocates​," it added: "Sodium reduction efforts will be undermined, rather than advanced, by using the term 'potassium chloride salt.'"

CSPI: 'It's quite inexplicable'

​Nutek president and COO Brian Boor echoed Campbell Soup's comments, adding: We strongly urge the FDA to amend its proposed draft guidance to reflect 'potassium salt' as the alternative to 'potassium chloride.'”

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USAin late May, Michael Jacobson, co-founder and senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the FDA’s draft guidance was “not helpful.”

He added: “The whole point of this effort was to make a term more consumer friendly and clean label, so why include the chemical term chloride? It just doesn't make sense. It's quite inexplicable.​​ I suspect that there will be so much opposition to the term and so much support for 'potassium salt' that FDA will have to change its tune."​​

Lee Sanders, SVP government relations and public affairs at The American Bakers Association said the ABA was “disappointed with the decision from the FDA. Our point of view is that simplifying the name to potassium salt would improve consumers’ understanding of ingredients, and we continue to believe it is the better option."​​

  • Read all the comments HERE​.​  The deadline for submissions has been extended to September 17.

NuTek Food Science​​​​​ filed a citizen’s petition​​​ with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 urging the agency to permit the term 'potassium salt' on US food labels.

A friendlier name would demystify the ingredient and help the industry achieve the dual goals of lowering sodium and increasing potassium intakes, according to NuTek​​​​​​ - 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.’

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