Food Labels: Lacking in Potassium

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently carried out a study on the labeling of packaged foods. According to the findings of these NYC health workers, the amount of potassium is generally amiss from most packaged food-labels.  This is problematic for those needing to ensure adequate potassium levels are maintained or for those with impaired kidneys who need to restrict their intake.

The recommendation by the Institute of Medicine vis-à-vis this powerful mineral is an intake of 4.7 grams daily for those not on a potassium-restrictive diet, reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease and death.  Indeed, as one researcher, Dr. Susan Kansagra pointed out, “diets high in potassium help decrease the negative impact of sodium, and so having a high ratio of potassium versus sodium in your diet is really important [and in general] Americans are not consuming enough potassium and are not meeting their dietary requirements.”

The study comprised an analysis of the labeling on 6,560 packaged foods covering 60+ different food categories, using nutritional information from a salt-reduced program.  Out of those products, only 500 contained potassium on their labels.  However, there was potassium data in over 50% of the products in five of the 61 categories: vegetable juice, seasoned processed potatoes, instant hot cereal, French toast/pancakes/waffles and sauces.

This issue is likely more connected to FDA requirements which currently lists potassium labeling as optional, rather than the companies themselves being amiss in their responsibilities.