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Reducing Sodium: Don’t Take Warnings with a Grain of Salt

One could almost follow the headlines to chart the sad story of Canada’s commitment to reducing sodium – a known risk factor for hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

2007: “Health minister announces sodium reduction group”
2010: “Dietary salt limits OK'd by health ministers”
2010: “Government won't act on all sodium recommendations, despite costly panel”
2010: “Ottawa disbands sodium reduction task force”
2011: “Canada’s Health ministers meet to try to shake up food salt content”
2011: “Minister rejects salt reduction proposal”
2012: “Federal inaction on limiting Canadians' salt intake criticized”*

After seven years, strong evidence linking high sodium intake to a range of cardiovascular diseases and thousands of dollars invested, what is stopping the federal government from implementing a comprehensive sodium reduction strategy for Canada? According to the federal health minister, they don’t want to alienate the source of or our high salt intake – food manufacturers and restaurants.*

Canadians consume about 3500 mg of sodium each day, well over the upper intake limit of 2500mg/day (and the nationally agreed upon target for 2016).

With between 70% and 80% of our dietary sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods, one might also question Health Canada’s investment of $4 million to beef up its education campaign focused on providing advice to Canadians on how to follow Canada’s Food Guide.

Absent from government discussions, as well as the recently released guidance document outlining benchmarks (not targets) for industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels, is the role of the federal government in mandating and monitoring the harmful amounts of sodium the food industry is adding to our foods.

CPhA, along with several other health and scientific organizations, has endorsed a petition urging the Government of Canada to establish and commit to a national sodium reduction strategy for Canada that includes setting and monitoring sodium reduction targets and timelines.

The federal government needs to stop putting industry’s interests ahead of the health of Canadians. Join the movement and urge our government for the same. Please sign and share the petition with your friends, colleagues and patients.

 

Thanks for joining us,
Ross T. Tsuyuki,  University of Alberta and Norm Campbell, University of Calgary
CPhA Guest Bloggers

*”Federal inaction on limiting Canadians’ salt intake criticized,” Postmedia News, June 12, 2012.

"Awkward alert: Health Canada heading to Ontario Sodium Summit," Postmedia News, January 25, 2012.

"Harper must demand action on sodium levels, health groups urge," Globe and Mail, January 9, 2012.

"Feds take facts with grain of salt," 24 Hours, December 6, 2011.