Canadians consume an average of 3,400mg of sodium a day, according to Health Canada, which has set a tolerable upper limit of 2,300mg for those aged over 14. It also warns that those with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, older people and those of African origin should limit sodium even further as they may be more sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium.
An estimated 77% of Canadians’ sodium intake comes from processed foods, and the industry has therefore been under increasing pressure to slash sodium in its products in recent years.
Health Canada’s new sodium reduction targets have been developed in collaboration with industry, and its benchmark reductions are intended to help bring Canadians closer to the 2,300mg tolerable upper limit for sodium by 2016.
“Some manufacturers have expressed the desire to reduce sodium levels all at once in their products while others prefer a gradual approach,” the agency said.
“In order to help guide manufacturers wishing to reduce sodium gradually phased levels have been suggested. Regardless of the approach taken manufacturers are encouraged to meet the phase 3 benchmark levels by the end of 2016 and, if possible, go beyond them over time to the lowest level possible while taking into consideration factors such as microbial safety, quality and consumer acceptance.”
Weighted by average sales of specific products, the voluntary sodium reduction targets are intended to reduce sodium levels by 25-30% of the baseline level. The agency also allowed for some exceptions when technical or food safety issues were documented.
Health Canada’s full table of benchmark reduction targets is available online here. It also includes acceptable usage of nutrient content claims such as “low sodium”, “lightly salted”, and “reduced in sodium or salt”.