1. Why do we need to take action to help reduce Canadians’ salt intake? Why should this be a priority for our government?
- Canadians currently consume 3,400 mg of sodium per day, double the recommended amount of 1,500 mg (Statistics Canada, 2006).
- Salt is a major cause of cardiovascular disease in Canada. High sodium diets can lead to hypertension and its associated conditions of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease (World Health Organization, 2009).
- Reducing sodium consumption by about 1,800 mg would prevent 23,500 cardiovascular disease events and 10,000 to 16,000 deaths annually in Canada (Penz, E.D., Joffres, M.R., Campbell N.R., 2008, Bibbins-Domingo K, 2009, and Havas, S., Roccella, E.J. et al., 2004 ).
- Reducing sodium consumption by about 1,800 mg per day would generate $1.38 billion in direct health care savings. If indirect costs are included, $2.99 billion would be saved per year (Penz, E.D., Joffres, M.R., Campbell N.R., 2008).
2. Why do we need Bill C-460, The Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act? Can’t Canadians manage their salt intake on their own?
High-salt foods are pervasive in Canada, making it difficult for Canadians to choose low-salt diets. With 77% of our salt intake coming from processed and restaurant foods, it is challenging to identify and avoid high-salt foods. Most Canadians don’t think they eat too much salt even when they recognize that as a country we eat too much salt. None of the menus at major restaurant chains provide sodium information and labeling on the back of food packages is often confusing.
Health and science organizations, provincial and territorial governments, and the Sodium Reduction Advisory Committee have all asked the federal government to adopt a mandatory approach, based on the Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada. The recommendation of a growing number of experts and organizations including, the World Health Organization and the United Nations, highlight the need to curb sodium intake.
3. Why is the federal government’s current voluntary approach to reducing sodium in our food not effective?
The federal government is currently asking the food industry to voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in our foods. However, over the past 20 years of using this voluntary approach, very few food companies have lowered the salt in their foods and Canadians’ salt intake has not gone down. In Australia, a similar approach to the current Canadian approach was observed to be associated with a 9% increase in salt content of food rather than a decrease. A recent U.S. report on reducing dietary sodium concluded that voluntary approaches alone were ineffective over a 40 year period.
4. If Bill C-460 is adopted, won’t it be difficult to meet the targeted daily sodium intake of 2,300mg per day by 2016?
It is possible to meet our goal of a daily sodium intake of 2,300 mg in the near future. When the Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada was released in 2010, it cited 2016 as the year we could reach this targeted intake. That target year is quickly approaching and the strategy has not yet been implemented. That’s why it’s important that Parliament support Bill C-460 NOW, so we can immediately start work to lower the sodium intake of Canadians and reach our targeted intake in a few years.
5. The proposed expert advisory panel, outlined in Bill C-460 says there cannot be any member with a conflict of interest. What does this mean? Does it exclude food industry representatives?
The ability to make good decisions, and good policies, can be undermined by competing financial interests of individual committee members who manufacture food products or own restaurants. While engagement and active participation of all stakeholders, including industry, is important, members that financially benefit from the success or failure of any aspects of the Strategy should be excluded from decision-making processes and voting.
6. Is this going to limit the choices available to me when I’m buying the food I want to eat?
No. Bill C-460 does not ban or restrict the sale of foods in any way, but companies will have to improve nutrition labelling, including labelling the amount of salt in a food product clearly on its packaging.
7. Will this bill hurt the food industry in Canada, an important part of our economy?
The best way to achieve sodium intake targets is through gradual and industry-wide reductions over several years. This approach gives companies reasonable time to formulate food products and is part of a worldwide effort to reduce sodium and will help make Canadian products more competitive internationally. Mandatory targets create a level playing field for companies that, otherwise, might be nervous about losing market share to companies that continue selling salty food.
8. Who is supporting Bill C-460 and why?
Based on its potential to effectively prevent chronic disease and improve the health of Canadians, many groups have formally expressed their support for Bill C-460 and include: the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Dietitians of Canada, Public Health Physicians of Canada, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, and the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. We have also heard from many individual Canadians and health practitioners who’ve expressed their support. You can check out our full list of supporters here.
9. What can I or my organization do to support Bill C-460?
There are 2 things you can do to help:
- Contact your MP about your support for Bill C-460. Try to meet with them and ask them to support this bill. Find your MP and ask them to support this Bill.
- Circulate the petition in support of Bill C-460.