Health organizations pepper the prime minister with requests to curb national sodium intake

Health organizations pepper the prime minister with requests to curb national sodium intake

Is this too much salt? Probably (Image: dynamosquito) 

The story of salt regulation in this country is long and only occasionally delicious. First, the feds created a task force to set targets for reducing sodium content in food. Then they decided they’d rather not bother with what those eggheads think, and handed things back over to industry (like we asked last time, when has self-regulation ever steered us wrong?). Now, the Globe and Mail reports, a crack team of health organizations is calling on Stephen Harper to quit talking and actually develop a strategy to curb Canadians’ excessive salt intake.

Here’s the Globe:

The groups, which include the Canadian Medical Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Hypertension Canada and the Canadian Stroke Network, say failure to take action on this urgent issue sends the message that the interests of the food industry are more important than the health of Canadians.

“This, to me, is very, very troubling,” said Norm Campbell, Canadian Institutes of Health Research chair in hypertension prevention and control, and professor of medicine at the University of Calgary.

The concerns are outlined in a letter signed by nearly two dozen health groups that was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office last week, as well as to provincial and territorial premiers. A copy of the letter was provided to the Globe and Mail.

The average Canadian consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, more than double the recommended amount of 1,500 milligrams, which puts tens of thousands at risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and a host of other health problems. About 80 per cent of the sodium Canadians consume is added to products by manufacturers.

(emphasis added)

The Globe goes on to recap some of steps the feds have taken to fight high sodium intake. There was the task force they established in 2007 and, um, disbanded in 2010. There has also been discussion of setting a goal for reducing average sodium intake by 2016, but the government isn’t interested in creating an actual plan to meet that goal. And it’s not hard to see what might be holding them up: small-government types would likely balk at the prospect of getting involved in what people eat. A spokesperson for the federal health minister told the Globe that setting and monitoring reduction targets would be “a bureaucratic nightmare,” which, although Harper’s office didn’t respond to the paper’s request for comment, tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

Harper must demand action on sodium levels, health groups urge [Globe and Mail]