Food and beverage manufacturers support Canada's three-pronged approach to
reduce sodium intake

TORONTO, July 29 /CNW/ - The largest industry association representing food and consumer product manufacturers in the country says Canada's strategy for reducing Canadians' daily intake of sodium makes Canada a leader and is the right approach to tackling a global health issue.

Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) supports the three-pronged approach of the Multi-Stakeholder Working Group on Sodium Reduction to reduce Canadians' sodium consumption. The three prongs, outlined in the Working Group's report, Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada released today, are: research, education, and a structured voluntary reduction of sodium levels in processed food products and foods sold in food service. The report also recommends a fourth prong to the strategy, which is to develop a plan to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy.

"The Multi-Stakeholder Working Group's strategy can be considered a model approach," says Phyllis Tanaka, vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs-food policy, with FCPC. "It is comprehensive. It addresses the key challenges to effectively reducing sodium intake. And it brings to the table all of the key players who can contribute to sodium reduction, including representatives of the scientific and health professional community, health focused and consumer non-governmental agencies, food products and foodservice industry and government agencies."

Ms. Tanaka says FCPC members, who manufacture the majority of the processed food products found on retail shelves in Canada, support the Working Group agenda and are committed to the sodium reduction strategy. The companies have been actively engaged in the process since the Multi-Stakeholder Working Group was formed, participating in the Working Group's public consultation and providing information critical to understanding the issues industry will have to address to succeed in reducing sodium in food products while maintaining consumer acceptance.

"Our members are committed to offering a variety of healthy products. For many years they have been developing new products with reduced sodium and reformulating processed food products to reduce their sodium levels and will continue to make advances in doing so," she notes. "But it's important for Canadians to know that lowering sodium to the interim target level set by the Working Group is uncharted territory for the industry, so it is going to take time."

Tanaka says that the challenge of reducing sodium is not unique to Canada, it's a global problem. While some countries may have initiated steps earlier than Canada, there isn't one that is further ahead. Like Canada, most have come to the conclusion that reducing sodium is a process that will take time and that success depends on several key factors: collaboration among the many stakeholders with a stake in the issue; setting realistic, achievable targets; a reasonable timeframe; and a multi-faceted approach.

All prongs of the Canadian strategy are important and must work in tandem if the strategy is to be successful. Research is a key component of the strategy to find suitable alternatives to the many functions that sodium performs in food manufacturing. In addition to improving taste, sodium is used as a preservative; when it binds with water it hinders the growth of micro-organisms. Sodium also aids in achieving the desired fermentation in certain products, and helps promote proper texture and bind in processed meats and poultry. Sodium can't just be removed without having suitable alternatives. Currently, there isn't one single replacement for sodium that would address the various functions sodium plays in a food product.

Critical to the success of any new product or reformulated product with lowered sodium levels is consumer acceptance. Consumer awareness of why the changes are occurring and consumer acceptance for the changes in the products is a critical prong of the strategy.

"The Working Group strategy outlines an effective, structured voluntary approach that will help industry get there," says Ms. Tanaka, adding that there will be follow up reports issued by the Working Group on the progress of the implementation, including against the reduction targets.

Food & Consumer Products of Canada is the largest industry association representing Canadian-operated food, beverage and consumer product companies that make and market national and retailer brands sold through retail and foodservice outlets. The industry we represent employs almost 300,000 Canadians in more than 6,000 manufacturing facilities in every region across the country.

SOURCE Food and Consumer Products of Canada

For further information: For further information: Nancy Bagworth, Vice President, Communication, 416-510-8088, 416-578-0709 cell, nbagworth@fcpc.ca

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