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

May 13-14, 2009, Ottawa, ON

Summary Report of the Meeting

SWG members met on May 13 and 14, 2009.

Executive Summary

Working Group members agreed to the following summary of the two-day meeting:

  • The Working Group received updates on work underway, including educational resources, data gathering on baseline sodium intake, and food industry progress and challenges pertaining to sodium.
  • The Working Group discussed and defined a process to establish a Canadian approach to dietary sodium reduction, including targets, an education/awareness strategy and a research agenda.
  • Sub-committees of the Working Group will fine-tune each of the components identified above over the summer months, for consideration at the Fall meeting.
  • The Working Group also agreed on a set of criteria to be used in evaluating approaches to the food supply, education/awareness and research.
  • The Working Group recognizes the importance of reaching out to industry and other stakeholders as soon as possible.

Meeting Objectives

The main meeting objectives were to:

  • Receive updates on work underway and consider the implications for next steps;
  • Refine and finalize selection criteria for use in identifying, prioritizing and choosing among strategy options.
  • Begin developing the substantive elements under each of the strategy's three "prongs" as set out in the SWG's Terms of Reference: education, voluntary reduction of sodium levels in processed food products and foods sold in food service establishments, and research
  • Identify measures and mechanisms to continue to advance the strategy's development work during the summer months.

Key Outcomes

Updates on work underway

Members received a number of presentations that set the foundation for a discussion of potential Strategy elements. Of particular note:

  • Members considered the results of a comparison of Total Diet Study (TDS) and Canadian Nutrient File sodium concentration data, and an effort to estimate population sodium intake by combining sodium concentration from these two sources and food intake data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). Members agreed that the group should identify its 'ideal' data/monitoring requirements, and then consider feasibility based on resource and other implications.
  • Members received a presentation on the estimated change in sodium intakes that could result in Canada if the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency's 2012 sodium reduction targets were applied to Canadian foods. This was done to evaluate and understand the utility and impact of establishing Canadian targets. Members found this preliminary analysis interesting, noting that potential Canadian targets would require consultation with industry.
  • Members received a presentation on public education tools for sodium reduction. They generally agreed that the Strategy should build on, and not duplicate, existing public education initiatives.
  • Members received a presentation on regulatory issues and challenges, including restrictions on what could be said on food labels to communicate changes in sodium levels to consumers. They agreed that these issues merit further consideration going forward.

Developing Selection Criteria

Members considered Draft Principles and Selection Criteria to Assess a Sodium Reduction Strategy, which set out principles and criteria for use in identifying, prioritizing and choosing among strategy options. Members endorsed the principles and the criteria with minor modifications.

Building the Strategy

The bulk of the May meeting focused on elaborating the elements of a multi-staged strategy for the successful reduction of the sodium content of the diets of Canadians, based on a three-pronged approach that would include education, voluntary reduction of sodium levels in processed food products and foods sold in food service establishments, and research. Members discussed areas of potential emphasis within the strategy, key considerations and the need to engage key stakeholders going forward. They also agreed to the establishment of three SWG sub-committees to advance work on the strategy options over the summer months, for the SWG's consideration in the Fall.

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