The Canadian Sodium Working Group (SWG) has released a report detailing a three-pronged strategy that aims to reduce the public’s salt consumption. After examining the issue for two years, the federally mandated group has established an interim sodium intake goal of a population average of 2,300 mg per day by 2016, with the ultimate goal of lowering “sodium intakes to a population mean whereby as many individuals as possible (greater than 95%) have a daily intake below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 2,300 mg per day.”
To achieve these targets, the strategy contains six overarching and 27 specific recommendations focused on reducing sodium levels in processed food products and foods sold in restaurant and food service establishments; educating consumers, industry, health professionals, and other key stakeholders; and undertaking new research. In particular, the report urges (i) “published sodium reduction targets for foods”; (ii) “defined timelines”; (iii) “a mechanism for public commitment by industry to the targets”; (iv) “a plan for monitoring progress by a body other than the food industry”; and (v) “a plan for independent evaluation of the success of the program with the option of taking stronger measures as necessary depending on progress.” It also calls for setting the daily value for sodium on the Nutrition Facts panel at 1,500 mg—as opposed to 2,400 mg—to reflect the adequate intake level. See SWG Backgrounder and News Release, July 29, 2010.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq has praised the report and noted that Health Canada has already taken steps commensurate with the SWG’s approach. According to a July 29, 2010, press release, the government has already implemented “mandatory nutrition labeling; criteria for ‘low in sodium,’ ‘salt-free’ and ‘reduced in sodium’ claims; a revised Canada’s Food Guide that includes guidance on limiting sodium; and consumer information on Health Canada’s web site.” In addition, Health Canada has apparently drafted sodium reduction targets modeled on those used by the United Kingdom. “We are committed to collaborating with all levels of government, consumers, industry and other stakeholders to reduce sodium consumption in Canada,” stated Aglukkaq. “Over the coming months, we will work with our governmental partners to assess the report’s recommendations and determine how they can best be addressed.”