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FDA proposes changing name of a healthier alternative to sodium

What's in a name? The FDA hopes changing how a salt alternative is listed on ingredient labels will reduce Americans' sodium intake.
Image: Salt

Coming soon to a food label near you: a more palatable name for a healthy alternative to sodium.

The Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance Friday that would allow manufacturers to change the name of "potassium chloride" on ingredient labels to "potassium chloride salt."

"When salt is added to packaged foods, it is primarily sodium chloride, which is commonly referred to as 'salt' on ingredient labels," the FDA said in a statement.

Sodium chloride is also what's found in a salt shaker. The American Heart Association says most Americans consume too much sodium: about 3,400 milligrams a day. The AHA recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day. A diet high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease.

But potassium chloride is different because even though it tastes and acts like salt, it does not add harmful sodium to the diet, according to the FDA.

"Potassium chloride also has the added benefit of containing potassium, a nutrient that is often under-consumed by Americans," wrote the FDA.

So why the change from "potassium chloride" to "potassium chloride salt"?

The move comes as a growing number of consumers search grocery store shelves for cleaner-sounding ingredients — meaning, foods that don't sound like they were made in a lab. The FDA suggests the change will also help people understand the ingredient, and realize it's a salt alternative.

NuTek Food Science petitioned the FDA for a change in 2016. It called for the term "potassium salt," omitting the word "chloride." More than a dozen manufacturers, including the Campbell Soup Co. and Nestlé U.S.A., supported the petition.

The new draft guidance is part of the FDA's Nutrition Innovation Strategy, announced in 2018. The initiative is meant to "reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition," according to the FDA's website.

The public will have time to make comments about the draft guidance on potassium chloride salt before it is finalized.