ARCHIVED - Multi-Stakeholder Working Group on Dietary Sodium Reduction (Sodium Working Group, SWG)

February 20, 2009, Ottawa, ON

Summary Report of the Meeting

Purpose of the Meeting

The SWG members met on February 20, 2009, following the public consultation which was held the previous day.

The main meeting objectives were to:

  • review key messages from the February 19th public consultation session;
  • discuss Health Canada sodium reduction modelling;
  • move forward on the development of the strategy.

Key Outcomes:

February 19 Consultation

A presentation was given by Martin Redfern, consultant, with an overview of the responses to the online sodium questionnaire and the key themes of the Feb. 19th consultation session. This was followed by a discussion of the information received. The members underlined the importance of the information submitted by Stakeholders, in presentations from Canadian and international experts, and by other interested parties.

Targets, Objectives, Goals and Selection Criteria to Assess Sodium Reduction Options

The Working Group initiated discussions on appropriate goals for population sodium intake reduction, including both target levels and appropriate timeframes to achieve those levels. Criteria that should be used to assess sodium reduction approaches were also discussed. Members raised issues about sodium intake goals, staged strategic approaches and sodium intake links to caloric intake and to other health issues. They also raised the issue of children as a population of special concern.

Modelling Scenarios of Sodium Reduction and Information Needs

Members discussed additional sodium reduction scenarios that could be applied to the distribution of sodium intakes in the Canadian population. The additional modelling work could include in the analysis the socio-economic status, the impact of behaviour changes on food choices of the higher sodium consumers (4th quartile of the sodium intake distribution) and the impact of including the "best in class" food products with the lowest sodium content.

They also identified information needs which include:

  • data on consumer knowledge pertaining to the Nutrition Facts Table (NFT) and to food labels concerning sodium,
  • research data into salt replacement behaviour among consumers,
  • current data on sodium levels in the Canadian food supply,
  • baseline sodium intake estimate based on measured sodium excretion in 24-hour urine collections, and,
  • data on realistic achievable and safe sodium levels in the foods.

Messages from the SWG Meeting

All SWG members present reaffirmed their commitment to the Terms of Reference and agreements made in previous meetings regarding external communications and confidentiality.

Members agreed to a list of key messages to communicate following the 2 days meeting (one day public consultation session and one day SWG meeting) which was held in Ottawa on February 19 and 20, 2009.

  • The Working Group reviewed much useful information submitted by Stakeholders and heard presentations from Canadian and international experts as well as other interested parties.
  • The Working Group recognized the efforts of Health Canada to provide a range of informative speakers, and found information about international experiences in sodium reduction especially useful.
  • Extensive discussions were held about goals, targets and strategies. A number of areas were identified for further research and analysis. The Working Group committed itself to a staged and comprehensive approach to reduce the Canadian population into line with the Dietary Reference Intakes for sodium recommended by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
  • The Working Group applauded the progress already being made by food companies in reducing sodium and encouraged all manufacturers to seek further progress.
  • The WG will meet again in May 2009.

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