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Sodium Reduction in Processed Foods in Canada: An Evaluation of Progress toward Voluntary Targets from 2012 to 2016Tuesday, January 16, 2018 > 10:24:33
Executive Summary: Sodium Reduction in Processed Foods in Canada
What is the issue?
Excess sodium (salt) in the diet causes high blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death in Canada, after cancer.
Canadians of all ages consume too much sodium. A major source of sodium in the diet is processed food. A cost-effective way to lower sodium intake is to reduce the amount of sodium in processed foods.
What is Health Canada doing?
In 2012, Health Canada published voluntary targets for reducing sodium in processed food by the end of 2016. The targets were developed through consultation with the food industry, health sector and research experts. The targets were designed to encourage gradual reductions, while still maintaining food safety, quality, and consumer acceptance.
In 2017, Health Canada evaluated the food industry's efforts to meet the sodium reduction targets. Figure 1 summarizes the results of this evaluation. Only 14% of food categories met the targeted reduction. In total, 48% did not make any meaningful progress toward sodium reduction; in fact, among the 48%, the sodium levels in several categories increased. In terms of the saltiest products on the market, only 30% lowered sodium content to levels similar to other foods in the same category.
What do these results mean?
The reduction of sodium in processed foods was much lower than anticipated. For most food categories, manufacturers did not do enough to reduce the sodium levels in the foods that they sell to Canadians.
What more can be done?
Stronger efforts are needed to achieve sodium reduction in Canada. Further actions could include an ongoing monitoring program and public commitments by manufacturers to reduce sodium. The Healthy Eating Strategy includes robust sodium reduction initiatives, such as front-of-package nutrition labelling and restrictions on marketing to children. Together, these actions will encourage the changes needed to address the high rates of chronic disease in Canada.
- 25% of Canadians live with high blood pressure
- 80% of Canadians consume too much sodium
- 93% of kids aged 4 to 8 years consume too much sodium
- 77% of sodium in Canadians' diet comes from processed food
Read the full report here.