Canadian taskforce outlines sodium reduction strategy

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

Canada’s Sodium Reduction Taskforce has issued its report outlining how it aims to cut Canadian per capita sodium consumption to 2,300mg a day by 2016 – including voluntary targets for industry.

According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the average Canadian consumes 3,092mg of sodium each day, although the government’s recommended intake is 1,500mg, and no more than 2,300mg a day.

The report – nearly three years in the making – said that reduction targets will be published with defined timelines, a mechanism for public commitment by industry to the targets, a plan for monitoring progress by an independent body, and a plan for independent evaluation of the program with an option to take stronger measures if necessary.

The targets are intended to bring average consumption levels down by five percent a year.

Dr. Mary L'Abbé, Earle W. McHenry professor, and chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto and vice-chair of the Sodium Working Group, said: "The Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada is a multi-staged, three-pronged approach that includes structured, voluntary reduction of sodium levels in processed food products and foods sold in restaurant and food service establishments; education and awareness for consumers, industry, health professionals and other key stakeholders; and support for research.”

Taking inspiration from the UK

The voluntary target model is partly based on a similar strategy in place in the UK. There, government has been working with industry since 2003 to create voluntary sodium targets for specific foods. As a result, it is estimated that sodium intake has declined by 9.5 percent.

Several organizations have issued statements of support for the taskforce’s report, including Dietitians of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Sally Brown said: "We're looking forward to the results of the monitoring and evaluation phases and feel strongly, as has been recommended by the SWG, that alternate measures be considered if sufficient progress has not been achieved."

It is estimated that about 70 to 80 percent of Canadians’ sodium intake comes from processed foods.

The full report is available online here.

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