Sodium monitoring in commercially processed and restaurant foods

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):622-31. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084954. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Background: Most sodium in the US diet comes from commercially processed and restaurant foods. Sodium reduction in these foods is key to several recent public health efforts.

Objective: The objective was to provide an overview of a program led by the USDA, in partnership with other government agencies, to monitor sodium contents in commercially processed and restaurant foods in the United States. We also present comparisons of nutrients generated under the program to older data.

Design: We track ∼125 commercially processed and restaurant food items ("sentinel foods") annually using information from food manufacturers and periodically by nationwide sampling and laboratory analyses. In addition, we monitor >1100 other commercially processed and restaurant food items, termed "priority-2 foods" (P2Fs) biennially by using information from food manufacturers. These foods serve as indicators for assessing changes in the sodium content of commercially processed and restaurant foods in the United States. We sampled all sentinel foods nationwide and reviewed all P2Fs in 2010-2013 to determine baseline sodium concentrations.

Results: We updated sodium values for 73 sentinel foods and 551 P2Fs in the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (releases 23-26). Sodium values changed by at least 10% for 43 of the sentinel foods, which, for 31 foods, including commonly consumed foods such as bread, tomato catsup, and potato chips, the newer sodium values were lower. Changes in the concentrations of related nutrients (total and saturated fat, total sugar, potassium, or dietary fiber) that were recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for reduced or increased consumption accompanied sodium reduction. The results of sodium reduction efforts, based on resampling of the sentinel foods or re-review of P2Fs, will become available beginning in 2015.

Conclusion: This monitoring program tracks sodium reduction efforts, improves food composition databases, and strengthens national nutrition monitoring.

Keywords: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR); United States; commercially processed foods; monitoring; restaurant foods; sodium; sodium reduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted
  • Food Analysis*
  • Food Handling*
  • Food Inspection
  • Food Labeling / standards
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Restaurants*
  • Sodium, Dietary / analysis*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Agriculture


  • Sodium, Dietary