Health Canada Sodium Working Group
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On October 25, 2007, the Minister of Health announced that the Government of Canada would establish an expert Sodium Working Group  to explore options for reducing sodium intake and cardiovascular disease among Canadians.
In announcing the creation of the Working Group, the Minister of Health said, "Through the formation of this working group, our Government is taking a major step in helping Canadians improve their health, and the health of their families."
"This is a wonderful demonstration of the government's leadership in forming collaborations to improve the health of Canadians to prevent stroke, heart and kidney disease -- three of the major causes of death and disability in Canada," says. "Here we have everyone working together for common cause."
In establishing the Sodium Working Group, Health Canada included representatives from food manufacturing and food service industry groups, health-focused non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, consumer advocacy groups, health professional organizations and government representatives. The mandate of the Working Group was to develop and oversee the implementation of a strategy for reducing dietary sodium intake among Canadians.
|Dr. Mary L'Abbé (Chair)||Health Canada|
|Scientific and Health-Professional Community|
|Dr. Peter Liu||Canadian Institutes of Health Research|
|Dr. Kevin Willis||Canadian Stroke Network|
|Dr. Katherine Gray-Donald||Canadian Nutrition Society|
|Dr. Susan I. Barr||Dietitians of Canada|
|Dr. Eric Young||Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health|
|Health-Focused and Consumer Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)|
|Dr. Norm Campbell||Blood Pressure Canada|
|Ms. Bretta Maloff||Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada|
|Ms. Francy Pillo-Blocka||The Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition|
|Mr. Bill Jeffery||Centre for Science in the Public Interest|
|Dr. Nathalie Jobin||Extenso - Reference Centre for Human Nutrition|
|Food Manufacturing and Food-Service Industry|
|Mr. Paul Hetherington||Baking Association of Canada|
|Ms. Mary Ann Binnie||Canadian Meat Council|
|Mr. Don Jarvis||Dairy Processors of Canada|
|Ms. Phyllis Tanaka||Food and Consumer Products of Canada|
|Mr. Colin Farnum||Food Processors of Canada|
|Ms. Jeanne Cruikshank||Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors|
|Mr. Ron Reaman||Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association|
|Ms. Chantal Martineau||Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Health Canada|
|Ms. Lianne Vardy||Public Health Agency of Canada|
|Ms. Nora Lee||Food Directorate, Health Canada|
|Ms. Lisa Forster-Coull||Federal Provincial Territorial Group on Nutrition|
|Ms. Patti Wunsch||Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada|
|Ms. Charmaine Kuran||Canadian Food Inspection Agency|
The Working Group has met on several occasions to establish a common knowledge base and to develop strategies for reducing dietary sodium consumption among Canadians. The process that Health Canada is following is patterned after that carried out by the Food Standards Agency in the UK – that is, no discussion of the science, but rather an immediate move to sodium reduction programs and policies. The concerns over salt are chiefly based upon its ability to affect blood pressure.
There is some debate on the impact of sodium reduction upon blood pressure. The salt industry and some food and beverage producers emphasize the heterogeneous impact of sodium on individuals. For example, they observe that about 30% of normotensive individuals experience a drop in blood pressure, while about 20% of normotensive individuals experience an increase in blood pressure - the remaining population showing no effect. As a consequence, some argue that programs to reduce salt will not hold the same benefits for everyone and policies to arbitrarily promote salt reduction will discriminate against a certain segment of the population. They argue that an across the board reduction in dietary sodium may not be the right approach  and the outcome may lead to unintended consequences for Canadian consumers.
On the other hand, groups concerned with cardiovascular health and nutrition emphasize the overall negative effects of high levels of sodium in the North American diet. Based upon a study carried out in the US in 1991 on a total of 62 people, the presumption made is that most of the sodium Canadians consume (77%) comes from processed foods sold in grocery stores and in food service outlets. Only about 11% is added during preparation or at the table, with the remainder occurring naturally in foods. And while the individual benefits of reducing sodium intake are variable, it has been theorized that dietary sodium reduction could eliminate hypertension for over a million Canadians, with a resulting savings of at least 430 million dollars annually in direct high blood pressure management costs (although this has never been confirmed through clinical trials). In other words, while not all Canadians need to reduce their intake of dietary sodium, many have been urged to. Moreover,theoretical estimates have projected that we may be better off because of a possible reduction of tax-supported health care.
In February 4, 2011, the Ottawa Citizen reported that the Health Canada Sodium Working Group had been disbanded. The Group had been charged with tracking whether companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods over the next five years. This follows actions in the United Kingdom to abolish the dietary mandate of the FSA (Food Standards Agency) the government unit most actively involved in salt reduction advocacy.
- Sodium controversy
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