Putting the Pepper on the
Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada:
Comment on the Report of the Sodium Working Group
OTTAWA (July 29, 2010) After 2½ years of deliberation, the 25-member expert Sodium
Working group published its report, Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada, today in
"The Sodium Working Group’s report offers sound expert advice for government and
industry to take actions that could save thousands of lives annually, protect the
public purse, and improve economic productivity by reducing sodium levels in the
processed foods and in Canadians' diets,” said Bill Jeffery, national coordinator of
the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and a member of the Sodium
Working Group. The report’s 27 recommendations include:
o reforming government regulations and policies to:
reduce the Nutrition Facts table’s “daily value” for sodium from 2,400
mg to 1,500 mg, mandate standardized serving sizes as the basis for
reporting nutrition information, and retrofit labels to facilitate improved
consumer understanding after the US Institute of Medicine’s report on
front-of-pack food labelling is published in 2011;
mandate prominent placement of sodium and calorie information at
chain restaurants serving standardized fare;
ensure regulatory standards for products using protected names like
cheese and pickles to permit the use of low-sodium salt substitutes;
include sensible sodium limits in government food-service policies and
procurement contracts (e.g., for schools, hospitals, and the military);
retrofit advice in Canada’s Food Guide on caloric intake and sodium.
o setting sodium-reduction targets for dozens of food categories and
transparently measuring progress of companies toward achieving them; and
o launching a public education and research effort to help facilitate reductions.
“But, that advice must be acted upon by governments and the food industry to show
dividends. And, the strategy needs to be promptly re-tooled—including mandating
compliance with regulations—at the first signs it is not producing results, if
governments drag their heels with funding or policy reforms, or companies withhold
data or stall on reformulations,” Jeffery added.
Excess sodium intake causes fatal heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, kidney
disease, and stomach cancer, which prematurely and needlessly kill 10,000 to 15,000 
Canadians and cost the economy and health care system at least $2 billion annually. 
Most Canadians consume double or triple the 1,500 mg of sodium daily recommended by
experts. But, barely 10% of dietary sodium naturally occurs in unprocessed foods. Even
children vastly exceed recommended intakes, though only infant foods are now subject to
Different brands of the same kind of processed foods often vary widely in the amount of
added salt (even ignoring very low-sodium products for special diets). Currently, too many
manufacturers and restaurants use salt gratuitously, not judiciously. Most manufacturers
simply must be more cautious in their use of salt.
Respected scientific bodies have called for regulations mandating gradual reductions of
sodium in processed foods, including an April 2010 report of a U.S. Institute of Medicine
(IOM) panel, chaired by a former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Jane E.
Henney. That committee concluded that more than 40 years of voluntary actions were an
abysmal failure. Much federal and provincial government nutrition policy is based on
reports of the IOM. And the World Health Organization concluded in its 2007 report: “In
countries where there have been recommended goals but little or no progress, it may now
be time for legislative action to be enforced with an adequate monitoring system.”
In June 2006, the expert Trans Fat Task Force Report recommended that regulations be
promulgated by 2008, then fully implemented by June 2010. Instead, the federal
government’s political leaders spent a full year stalling, then gave industry two years to
voluntarily act, then still did nothing but promise more consultations despite collecting
(weak) evidence of inadequate progress.
“Taking such a casual, permissive approach to sodium reduction is reckless and
could silently kill 15,000 Canadians and squander $2 billion annually. The health of
Canadians, provincial health care coffers, and the economy as a whole depend on
the federal government taking to heart the Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.,
especially if governments hope to balance the books and bolster the economy.” said
For more information, call: Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator of CSPI at 613-244-7337
(ext. 1) or by cell at 613-277-9334 and for background, see:
Note to editors: Bill Jeffery is one of 25 members of Health Canada’s Sodium Working
Group. This statement does not necessarily reflect the views of other members. In
September 2009, CSPI published a report, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.,
revealing that similar foods often vary widely in the amount of sodium per standardized
portion, often more than two-fold, indicating that manufacturers and restaurants can make
products with les salt. He was also a member of the Trans Fat Task Force which, in June
2006, recommended the federal government issue regulations to limit the use of trans-fat-
laden partially hydrogenated oils to prevent the 2,600 deaths caused by them annually.
CSPI is an independent health advocacy organization with offices in Washington and
CSPI's Ottawa advocacy efforts are supported by 120,000 subscribers to the Canadian
edition of its
Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding and
Nutrition Action does not carry advertisement
 E.g., Havas S, Roccella EJ, et al. Reducing the public health burden from elevated blood pressure levels
in the United States by lowering intake of dietary sodium. American Journal of Public Health. 2004; 94(1):19-
22. And Dickinson BD and Havas S. Reducing the population burden of cardiovascular disease by reducing
sodium intake: A report of the [AMA] Council on Science and Public Health. Archives of Internal Medicine.
2007; 167:1460-1468. Both estimated 150,000 deaths can be prevented annually in the U.S. by reducing
sodium; the population is approximately nine times greater than Canada’s. See also He FJ, MacGregor GA.
How far should salt intake be reduced? Hypertension. 2003; 42:1093-99 at 1097. Available at
http://hyper.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/42/6/1093 which estimated that 52,000 deaths could be prevented in
the U.K., whose population is approximately double Canada’s.
 Joffres MR, Campbell NRC, Manns B, et al. Estimate of the benefits of a population-based reduction in
dietary sodium additives on hypertension and its related health care costs in Canada. Canadian Journal of
Cardiology. 2007;23:437-43; and Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, et al.. Projected Effect of Dietary Salt
Reductions on Future Cardiovascular Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2009;1-10 at 7 which
estimated a reduction in health care costs alone in the U.S. of $57 billion to $96 billion annually for an 1,800
mg decrease in sodium consumption.
CSPI is an independent health advocacy organization with offices in Ottawa and Washington.
CSPI's Ottawa advocacy efforts are supported by more than 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian
edition of its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding
and Nutrition Action does not carry advertisements