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Canada Cans Sodium Task Force, Lets Group With Industry Ties Take Over

Canada Cans Sodium Task Force, Lets Group With Industry Ties Take Over

Less than six months after recommending the average daily intake of sodium for Canadians be cut by nearly 1/3, Canada has canned the working group tasked with making the recommendation a reality – and instead given the task to a group with strong food industry ties.

The recommended daily intake of sodium is 1500 mg; the sodium intake of the average Canadian is 3400 mg (the equivalent of about 1.5 teaspoons of table salt. Ew.) This number is so elevated largely due to the consumption of processed food in the Canadian diet – canned, packaged and restaurant food – containing high sodium levels.  The Sodium Working Group was tasked to analyze the sodium intake of Canadians, provide recommendations and carry out implementation and oversight of the government’s sodium reduction strategy over their five-year mandate. Members of the Sodium Working Group task force were therefore taken by surprise on a December conference call when they were informed their services would no longer be required.

Health Canada provided no explanation for the move.

The duties of the task force have been handed over to a group called the Food Regulatory Advisory Committee. Many members of this committee are involved in the food industry, such as Paul Paquin, Vice-President of the Canadian arm of the International Dairy Federation, or Keith Mussar, head of the Food Commitee of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters.
With these resumes, it’s clear that these individuals will have more interest in maintaining profits for their respective industries rather than making any wholesale changes to the formulation of packaged foods. In other words, if sodium reduction in food would result in a negative impact to any of their industries, sodium reduction would probably quietly be sacrificed.

Excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. However, North American diets are primed to favor salt, so reducing salt in processed foods too quickly would send consumers away in droves, making sodium reduction a tough sell.

Was the Canadian government influenced by food industry lobbyists? Or did they feel the work would be better carried out within the industry? Only time will tell. Until then, all consumers should be familiar with how to read food labels and be aware of their own sodium intake – for their own health.

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Photo credit: TooFarNorth on Flickr.

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4:28AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

our politicians have always been in the pockets of the fast food industry. few years ago there was a report of how cooking carb foods at high temps produces cancer causing agents but the government quickly denied this report because it came from sweden, now after it's been proven to be true canada finally acknowledges the findings. our goverment has done nothing to address the high amount of sodium in our foods(more than any other country in the world) and the very low amount of vitamins and minerals in fast foods as well.

10:33AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

Interesting article.

5:01PM PST on Feb 15, 2011


9:16PM PST on Feb 13, 2011


6:41AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Cost cutting at its worse "Members of the Sodium Working Group task force were therefore taken by surprise on a December conference call when they were informed their services would no longer be required."

3:04PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Myriam Garcon ~ I never said that nobody has the right to demand a certain kind of food from one, some or every food companies or/and restaurants! What I object to is people who wants to ban something just because they don't like it or can't eat it or they think it is bad!

11:23PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

we should be allowed to put our own salt and not be forced fed it.

2:32PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

My point is that even the so-called low-salt prepared foods are too salty for people with hypertension and the like. It'd be nice to have prepared foods that agree with their diet.
My aunt is 80, hypertensive, from a rural community (not a jungle), living alone in her 150-year-old home, taking care of it by herself, and quite efficiently. She drives, she shops at the local farmer's market when it's opened, she cooks at home. It's just that once in a while, she'd like it if she could skip the chore of making lunch, and have a store-bought can of soup instead. But she can't; even the so-called "low-in-sodium" soups are too salty for her health. I know there are ways around that, the family could can homemade soups and bring it to her, even if she doesn't like to accept help too much.
The thing is, I thought I'd be allowed to ask the industry for some very-low-sodium prepared foods, but apparently, I won't be. Nancy Roussy will see to it.

12:39PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

I use Braggs Liquid Aminos in place of salt.

12:17PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

Myriam Garcon ~ There are a lot of prepared food available that are low on salt and they are easy to find (unless you live in a jungle or somewhere else where there is no stores that sells food and nobody will deliver food to where you live).

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