USDA Reduces School Lunch Sodium Limits by 10%

School kids in uniform being served canteen meal by lunch lady.

The United States Department of Agriculture has moved to significantly reduce child sodium intake in the years to come.

Key Takeaways:

  • The USDA wants school meal sodium content reduced by 10% by 2024
  • 2024 will mark the beginning of a new long-term school low-sodium rule
  • The USDA’s efforts are supported by FDA guidelines for industry
  • MicroSalt® can help food manufacturers get compliant with all required and suggested practices for reducing sodium

The importance of a healthy lunch for America’s children and young adults can’t be overstated. School lunch is a nutritional necessity, and for many of our nation’s poorer kids, it’s the only lunch they’ll receive. It’s also unfortunately a meal overloaded with sodium, which only adds to the already excessive amount young people are consuming from other sources. 

The USDA is aware of this and has taken new steps to significantly reduce the amount of sodium children consume in their school lunches. This guide will examine the Administration’s strategy to create real change in 2023 and beyond and explain how food manufacturers can partner with MicroSalt® to reduce sodium without reducing salty flavor.

The numbers behind the USDA’s concern

American children and teenagers consume far too much sodium: 1,000 mg over the suggested maximum according to CDC data. The preference for junk food among youth demographics creates health problems and puts certain racial groups and those with chronic conditions at even greater risk of ill health.

The CDC figures also reveal that lunchtime is when young people consume 30% of their daily sodium; their second-highest intake window behind dinner. It’s thus as essential as it is commendable that the USDA Food and Nutrition Service released a press statement on February 4 spotlighting their transitional nutrition standard. It aims to reduce sodium in school meals by 10% starting this year and continuing toward a measurable difference by 2024 with further announcements scheduled in the Fall.

This time frame is designed to give schools ample time to make changes while understanding that lunch sodium content will remain at present levels for the 2022-2023 school year. This is due in large part to the disruptive influence of the pandemic, which has left many schools struggling to regain equilibrium.

The USDA’s February statement coincided with the issuance of their final rule. This becomes effective on July 1, 2022, to make an early intervention in Americans’ nutritional lives and establish positive dietary norms that children can continue. The earlier the better, since FDA data shows 97% of the youngest among us (ages 2 to 4) are consuming too much sodium.

More ongoing USDA programs and plans for the future

The USDA’s push toward generally healthier meals is further strengthened by its own School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The Administration knows that school lunches are often the healthiest meal students receive in a day and sees these steps as integral to America’s improved dietary restructuring for young people post-pandemic. The new rules will also be key to battling health problems created or exacerbated by excessive sodium intake such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Most important of all are the other voices being consulted by the USDA to implement lasting change. The Administration is currently working with school meal stakeholders: a group of parents, teachers, students, and business and community leaders. The input of these individuals and organizations will provide the feedback necessary for the USDA to shape its long-term school sodium rules from 2024 onwards.

It’s important to note that the new USDA rule applies to school lunches only. Young people still have to eat at other times of the day. The CDC states that breakfast, dinner, and snacks see America’s young people consuming 15%, 39%, and 16%, respectively, of their total daily sodium intake.

The USDA has the power to hold schools accountable at lunchtime, however, their powers don’t stretch to enforcing what parents/guardians feed children at home or to monitoring kids every time they enter stores for a snack. The FDA is thankfully making a significant effort towards reducing the amount of sodium available through retail stores and workplaces nationwide via their Guidance for Industry.

This drive aligns with the USDA’s new regulations; however, the FDA’s recommendations are not yet rules. This means every other meal of the day is still a potential health risk. It’s up to food manufacturers to voluntarily make positive changes to the sodium content in their products and contribute to the better health of all Americans and especially our children.

How food manufacturers can help kids eat healthy at all times

Making MicroSalt® a part of your food manufacturing process means you’re complying with USDA rules, helping to make the FDA’s suggested guidelines a reality, and ensuring that America’s youth benefit from healthier dietary options no matter what time of day they eat. Our product requires no adjustments to your current equipment or food production process, but it can dramatically improve the end result.

MicroSalt® is patented, all-natural salt particles constructed around a crystalline matrix that dissolves almost instantaneously, delivering twice the sodium flavor of standard salt without incorporating salt substitutes. The micro-sized particles are 100-times smaller than sodium particles resulting in 50% less sodium by weight. Twice the taste means manufacturers are free to use half the sodium without sacrificing the flavor Americans love or putting the nation’s children at risk.

Contact MicroSalt® today with any questions

Our team strives to create a new food industry norm where good health doesn’t come second to great taste. MicroSalt® won the P&G Alumni Network’s 2021 Star Entrepreneur Award for our innovative approach to lower sodium intake, and we’d love to take part in making your products the best they can be.

Simply contact us via our message page call 1-877-825-0655 to learn more.

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