Introduction: Average US sodium intake is 9 times higher among toddlers 12-24 months of age than among infants 0-6 months of age. About 80% of US toddlers aged 1-3 years consume excessive dietary sodium and research indicates that what children eat in the first 2 years of life may influence subsequent preference for salty-tasting foods. Information on consumer attitudes can influence strategies to reduce sodium in commercially packaged baby and toddler foods.
Hypothesis: The objective of the study was to describe the prevalence of adult consumer attitudes and related sociodemographics on the importance of baby and toddler foods being low in sodium. We hypothesized that parents of children younger than 2 years, individuals with or at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and those who agree that too much sodium intake is harmful or who are trying to reduce sodium intake would be more likely to agree that toddler foods should be low in sodium.
Methods: Data was obtained from Porter Novelli’s 2012 ConsumerStyles online survey sent to a random sample of 11636 US adults aged ≥ 18 years enrolled in their national probability-based consumer panel. Of those who completed the survey (N=6728), 6378 responded to the statement, “It is important for baby and toddler foods to be low in sodium.” The data from the respondents were weighted to match 2011 US Current Population Survey Proportions. Compared with non-respondents (N=350), a higher proportion of respondents were male (49% v 34%), but respondents did not differ by race, age, education, income, or region of residence. Potential determinants of agreement included demographic, health, and sodium-related attitudes and behaviors. We used logistic regression to describe the association of adult consumer attitudes and related sociodemographic characteristics with the importance of baby and toddler foods being low in sodium.
Results: About 7 in 10 (68%, 95% CI: 66%-70%) participants agreed it was important for baby or toddler foods to be low in sodium. More than 6 of 10 in most subgroups agreed, with the highest agreement among parents of children aged 65 years compared with adults aged 18-34 years, those of other non-Hispanic races compared with non-Hispanic whites, participants who reported having high cholesterol, and those currently watching or reducing their own sodium intake.
Conclusions: The majority of respondents agree it is important for baby and toddler foods to be low in sodium, particularly among parents with children younger than 2 years of age, persons trying to reduce sodium, and those who agree sodium is harmful to their health. In conclusion, these data suggest broad support for strategies to lower sodium in these foods.