Sodium can be found on nutrition labels of processed food sold in the United States. However, in the European Union, salt is more commonly listed instead of sodium. Sodium and salt do not mean the same thing, yet there is an issue about which of the two terms will be used as an international standard in food labeling.
The United States delegates to the Codex Committee Meeting regarding food labeling is planning to propose sodium to become the international standard when it comes to labeling in food products. This proposal however might create confusion, especially if consumers of one country understand sodium, but other consumers from different countries do not. A homogenized term might only lead to confusion regarding what consumers already previously know about the ingredient.
Sodium is a nutrient, and salt is not. Sodium can also be found as an ingredient in other food ingredients such as baking powder or sodium bicarbonate. However, a majority of the sodium that is ingested by the body comes from salt.
If food manufacturers use sodium in their food labels, consumers in the European Union might have a difficult time figuring the maximum amount of salt that they can take everyday. Consumers in EU are already used to reading salt on food labels instead of sodium and changing that may be counterproductive.
Ultimately, the common goal is to reduce the amount of salt/sodium intake. For the U.S., the daily maximum amount per person is 2,300 milligrams of sodium, and for the EU, the daily maximum amount per person is 2,400 milligrams of salt. Implementing an international standard term to be used might only cause this common goal to be temporarily side-tracked. This issue is still an ongoing debate, but as food analysts and experts suggest, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.