Toronto board of health supports sodium reduction strategy

Toronto’s board of health is urging the federal government to quickly put its sodium reduction strategy into action to help prevent Canadians from dying of heart disease and stroke.

A report, presented and passed at Friday’s board meeting, presses the government to immediately implement the strategy’s recommendations. The board also wants Ottawa to rapidly develop a plan to monitor how well the strategy reduces Canadians’ salt intake.

Released by Health Canada in July, the sodium reduction strategy aims to slash the average Canadian’s daily sodium consumption from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg by 2016. The strategy largely relies on food manufacturers to follow voluntary sodium reduction targets for processed foods, including cereals, sauces and soups.

The board of health has asked Ottawa to adopt regulations that would force manufacturers to comply with targets if, at the end of two years, the voluntary approach has failed.

“That’s a time period where we would want to see some change,” said Jann Houston, the report’s author and Toronto Public Health’s acting director for chronic disease prevention. She said the city’s public health programs, including those that teach food skills, will soon have a greater focus on ways people can cut salt from their diet.

Consuming excessive amounts of salt can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, one in every seven deaths from stroke and one in every 11 deaths from heart disease could be spared if Canadians cut salt intake by half.

Alan Jones, co-chair of Advocates for Black Health Improvement, addressed the board Friday with his concerns that the report does not adequately meet the needs of Toronto’s diverse communities.

“I was speaking specific to the black community that has a high rate of blood pressure,” he said in an interview.

“We have a lot of cardiovascular disease,” Jones said. “We need to be addressed differently in terms of the messaging that comes to our community. I want to see them reach our community where they are, in the barber shops, in the hairdressing parlours, in the dances, in the churches, in the newspapers that they read, on the community radio stations. I am not seeing any of that happening.”

By Megan Ogilvie
Health Reporter
Toronto Star–toronto-board-of-health-supports-sodium-reduction-strategy