January 25, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration announced a wide-ranging regulatory agenda for food policy as part of a set of priorities that also covered medical and health issues such as the opioid crisis.

Among food-related actions that the agency is considering, according to the document, are changes to standards of identity for some foods and a renewal of guidance to reduce sodium levels in food.

FDA Commissioner Scot Gottlieb said in a statement that the agency chose priorities that “embody the overall scope and spirit of our collective efforts as we work together to pursue FDA’s public health mission.”

Standards of identity seek to protect consumers by ensuring that foods meet certain expectations for their content.  For example, the standards of identity for both noodles and mayonnaise require that they contain eggs.

FDA did not say which standards would change but said its aim would be to change “current barriers to the development of healthier foods.”  The FDA document does not say what those barriers might be, but the process would begin with a “request for information,” a common regulatory step that allows for public comment before agencies make proposals.

The FDA roadmap also raised the prospect of continuing to develop guidance for voluntary sodium reduction in foods.  That guidance, proposed during the Obama Administration but never finalized, has been controversial in the food industry.   The National Academy of Sciences is reviewing current sodium intake recommendations and is expected to issue a report in about a year.  Some recent studies have called into question the health value of further sodium reductions, though average U.S. intake remains well above recommended levels.