Toronto/Guelph, Ont. – Canadian consumers want the food industry to use less salt and they don’t mind having government step in.
According to a recent survey from researchers at the University of Toronto and University of Guelph, more than 80 per cent of respondents agree the food industry should use less salt.
The survey results and report were published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
The report authors say Canadians are concerned about dietary sodium and welcome government intervention to reduce sodium intake through a variety of measures, including lowering sodium in food, and education and awareness.
The top barriers to limiting sodium intake are a lack of lower-sodium packaged and processed foods and lower sodium restaurant menu options.
“Canadians are supportive of government intervention to lower salt intake,” says lead investigator Mary R.
L’Abbe, PhD and a professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.
L’Abbe also notes that most Canadians eat more than the recommended amount of sodium, increasing their risk of developing high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.
Canadians consume too much
CBC’s Marketplace also recently analyzed the daily sodium intake of 80 Canadians and found a great majority consume far more than the nutritionally recommended amounts, reports CBC.ca.
High sodium intake is a major health problem in Canada; it’s a leading cause of hypertension, which afflicts one in five Canadians and can lead to obesity, strokes and heart attacks.
Overall, 99 per cent of those Marketplace tested consumed more than the daily recommended 1,500 mg per day, while 77 per cent exceed the recommended maximum of 2,300 mg, reports CBC.ca. The average Canadian intake is 3,400 mg per day.
To combat high sodium in Canadian diets, a federal government-appointed multi-stakeholder Sodium
Working Group developed “A Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada,” which includes a formal set of recommendations that focus on the food supply, education and awareness, and research in order to lower the amount of sodium Canadians eat from an average 3,400 mg per day to 2,300 mg per day by 2016.
The group also called for voluntary sodium reductions in the food industry coupled with regular monitoring of progress, which may be enforced through regulation should industry fail to reach targets.
Researchers from the University of Toronto and University of Guelph conducted the online survey (http://consumermonitor.ca) with a representative sample of the Canadian population in terms of age, sex, province, and education.
Support for interventions
In light of the proposed federal Bill C-460 – legislating the working group’s recommendations – investigators also sought to determine Canadians’ level of support for a number of sodium reduction initiatives.
There was very high support for almost all types of public health interventions to lower sodium. Eighty per cent of respondents would like the food industry to lower the amount of sodium in food.
A large number supported setting maximum amounts of sodium in grocery and restaurant foods and for foods served in public settings like schools and hospitals.
There was little support for taxation of high sodium foods or subsidizing lower sodium foods.
Among the 2,603 people surveyed, 67 per cent were concerned about their sodium intake, especially older individuals and those with high blood pressure.
Approximately half of the respondents were actively limiting their sodium intake. However, many thought they consumed low amounts of sodium because they did not add salt to their food.
Others were not limiting their sodium intake because they had low or normal blood pressure and overall good health, contradicting the literature demonstrating benefits of sodium reduction in individuals with normal blood pressure.
Only 16 per cent of people knew the recommended intake for sodium (1,500 mg per day), and 12 per cent knew the maximum amount that should be consumed (2,300 mg per day).
Photo: Healthy Families B.C.