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What 'War on Salt'?

Apr 27, 2012 07:00 PM

Posted by Kim Bretz

I recently heard a news story on the radio that reported fast foods in Canada have more salt than those in other comparable countries; I wanted to see what I could find out about this important health topic.

When I googled “Salt in Canadian food”,  a lot of what I got were articles about Health Canada’s planned ‘war on salt’. These articles were often from 2006 or 2008 and they contained statistics on why such action would be a good idea. For example:

 
  • On average, Canadians consume 3,100 milligrams of sodium daily. Almost 80% of this comes form processed food
  • 85 per cent of Canadian men, and 60 per cent of women, consume more than the upper daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium -- about one teaspoon of salt
  • The Canadian Journal of Cardiology in 2007 concluded that reducing dietary sodium to ideal levels could eliminate hypertension in more than one million Canadians and save $430 million in direct health costs.
  • Finland, which has aggressively reduced salt in food over three decades, has seen a 40-per-cent decline in average sodium intake. That decline has led to a large reduction in average blood pressure levels and an 80-per-cent drop in deaths due to stroke.
 
An article from 2006 found that processed foods such as " Kellogg's Corn Pops, Rice Krispies and Special K sold in Canada contained up to 85 per cent more salt per serving than the same cereals purchased elsewhere". This is almost identical to what we just heard about our fast food. For some reason we have more salt added to our food than most other countries.
 
In 2007, Tony Clements - the former Minister of Health - formed the Sodium Working Group to try to lower the amount of sodium found in processed and fast food. However, the group was quietly disbanded in early 2011 before the recommendations were put in place. Voluntary sodium levels haven't worked in the past but the new system being implemented seems even more difficult to judge. 
 
This new system is based on having the food industry replacing draft voluntary sodium reduction targets for individual products with "sales weighted average" targets for the years 2012 and 2014. This method makes it almost impossible for the average person to know whether companies are complying to the targets, as the evidence that companies like Kraft or Burger King are providing and are judged by is proprietary information about their sales figures.
 
I hope that with the new information that has come out - not just that we have too much salt added to our processed and fast food, but that we have MORE salt that almost all comparable countries - will somehow take us back to where we were 6 years ago. We need to start seriously looking at why companies are doing this and why we're putting up with it.

 

 

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