Last month, McDonald’s announced plans to reduce sodium content in its meals by 15 percent, while also reducing fat and offering more fruits and vegetables. This week, to the applause of First Lady Michelle Obama, Darden Restaurants, owner of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other national chains, said the company will reduce sodium in restaurant meals by 20 percent over the next decade, while making vegetable side dishes and low-fat milk standard with kids’ meals.

Mrs. Obama, of course, has actively campaigned for better dietary habits and physical activity to reduce obesity among kids.

Sodium intake in particular is catching the attention of government health officials due to its relationship with hypertension and heart disease.

This week the FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service announced  plans to obtain comments, data, and evidence relevant to the dietary intake of sodium as well as current and emerging approaches designed to promote sodium reduction.

According to a news release, FDA and FSIS are particularly interested in research that will help both organizations understand current and emerging practices by industry in sodium reduction in foods; current  consumer understanding of the role of sodium in hypertension and other chronic illnesses, sodium consumption practices; motivation and barriers in reducing sodium in their food intakes; and issues associated with the development of targets for sodium reduction in foods to promote reduction of excess sodium intake.  The agencies will accept comments until November 29, 2011.

More information on the issue and how to submit comments is available online.