Nutrition Facts Panels Often Omit Potassium

March 30, 2013

A look at top-selling food products presents concern about market awareness of potassium.

Potassium is a heart-healthy nutrient that appears to manage blood pressure and lower stroke risk. But researchers writing in JAMA Internal Medicine say few food manufacturers are listing potassium content on nutrition facts panels (NFPs).

Manufacturers are required to list sodium content on NFPs, but listing potassium is optional-and probably not encouraged enough. Opportunities to advertise high potassium levels are available for many foods, such as tomato juice, canned soups, and canned beans.

To assess the rate of potassium inclusion on NFPs across the United States, researchers gathered universal product codes (UPCs) for 6560 top-selling food products-from 61 food categories-sold at major U.S. retailers. Potassium content was listed for just 10% of all products. In nearly half of all food categories, potassium listings were present for less than 1% of products.

Even categories that could be expected to include potassium-rich products (e.g. canned tomatoes and beans) had a low rate of listing. The few categories in which potassium listings ran on more than half of products were vegetable juices; seasoned processed potatoes; instant hot cereal; French toast, pancakes, and waffles; and entrée sauces, such as spaghetti sauce.

Especially for consumers looking to lower their risk of heart disease or restrict their potassium intake, “The lack of potassium information on the NFP presents a problem for patients and consumers trying to make informed decisions when purchasing foods,” wrote the researchers. It also presents a problem for researchers and policy makers interested in understanding potassium’s role in the U.S. food supply.

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