An overwhelming majority of Canadians say action needs to be taken to lower the amount of sodium in the country’s food supply.
A survey of 2,603 Canadians published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology on Wednesday found that about 80 per cent of Canadians want the government to work with the food industry to lower sodium levels. It also found that more than 80 per cent would support the introduction of sodium caps on meals served in daycares, hospitals, schools and other facilities.
“What this is telling us is Canadians are in support of interventions to help them lower their sodium intake,” said JoAnne Arcand, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto who, along with colleagues, developed and administered the survey.
Sodium has emerged as a key public health issue in recent years. The average Canadian consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, which is more than double the 1,500 milligram amount that is recommended for people ages 9 to 50. It also exceeds the upper tolerable limit of 2,300 milligrams for daily sodium consumption. Research shows that consuming more than the upper tolerable limit can increase the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The new survey found that two-thirds of Canadians report being concerned over the issue of sodium. About 60 per cent of respondents said they were actively trying to reduce the amount of sodium they consume.
But many respondents said that there doesn’t appear to be many lower sodium options available in the marketplace or in restaurants, which makes it difficult to control sodium intake.
About 80 per cent of the sodium Canadians consume comes from packaged and processed foods such as soups, sauces, canned vegetables and bread.
The federal government has come under fire for not doing more on the issue of sodium reduction. Although it created a task force to develop national strategies, Health Canada disbanded the group and failed to implement most of its recommendations. While the federal government has introduced guidelines for sodium reduction for the food industry, many critics say the guidelines are too lax and would still allow food companies to sell items that have excessive amounts of salt.