Allowable Sodium Levels in Foods (Canada)

July 5, 2012 By


Health Canada has released guidelines for the food industry on reducing sodium in processed foods from 2400 mg/day to 2300 mg/day by 2016. The reason behind such measures is attributed to the statistics which indicate that “Canadians are eating too much sodium- almost double the amount they require”. Increased sodium consumption has been directly linked to elevated risk factors such as blood pressure levels resulting in stroke, heart disease and kidney related ailments. As an effort to promote healthier choices, the reduction of the sodium in processed foods is a condition set to achieve lower sodium intake nationally.

Although a voluntary approach, Health Canada is said to have proposed the guidance in sodium reduction to further harmonize an international effort to bring food regulation in synchronization with that of other regulatory bodies. As indicated by the guidance document several jurisdictions such as Finland, United Kingdom, the European Union and New York City have taken measures to reduce sodium intake as well. Dating back as far as 1979 to as recently as 2008, the successful efforts of the aforementioned regulatory bodies have demonstrated decreased sodium intake ranging from 33% in Finland to 10% in the United Kingdom. As such, all stakeholders and food industry members are encouraged to voluntarily work towards similar goals.

Within the guidance document, benchmark sodium levels for each food category is outlined based on sales weighted averages (SWA) of sodium content in milligrams per 100 grams of the product in a category weighted by the Canadian volume market share in kilograms. The proposed SWA sodium levels were established by reducing the baseline sodium content to 25% from 30%. Health Canada has indicated that by 2016, all companies are not only encouraged to reduce sodium levels but to have a product portfolio that meets the SWA levels for each applicable food category as well as for each individual product to meet or be below the Maximum levels for the categories. Additionally, Health Canada is said to implement a monitoring system in which it will track progress of sodium intake in the population through the CCHS-nutrition survey, known to measure impact of overall changes in food environments by assessing consumer dietary patterns and consumer food choices.

In the past, changes to the food products framework with the introduction of proposed nutrition reductions and alterations have altered the manner in which Canadians view and consumer foods. The trans fat reduction movement had not only seen drastic changes in nutrition profiling of products but as well as health claims and overall industry standards. The willingness of the major corporate players to comply has allowed for smaller companies to usher in the change as well. Will this proposed reduction of sodium in processed foods bring about another similar wave of change in perception and consumption? Or rather will there be more resistance than previously seen?


Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, Health Canada. June 2012.

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