According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition, about 70 percent of Canadians say that they are influenced to select foods based on how much sodium they contain. Yet even with this high percentage of people claiming to be “salt conscious,” roughly 90 percent of Canadian men and 65 percent of women exceed Health Canada’s recommended sodium limit of 2300 milligrams per day. The average Canadian consumes 3,100 milligrams of sodium daily – so something is not adding up.
About 60 percent of Canadians say that they changed their eating habits in the past year, but only 12 percent of them say that their change included reducing sodium intake. This is problematic since about one million Canadians suffer from hypertension that is caused by excessive salt consumption. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes and also increases the risk of developing heart disease. It’s important to bring sodium levels down at the public health level. Cutting salt consumption by 50 percent across the population could reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 20 percent, and decrease all-cause mortality by seven percent.
As part of a foodservice establishment, you can do your part to help reduce the sodium levels in the foods you serve. This is particularly important in long-term care and retirement settings since the risk of developing hypertension increases with age. For example, 21 percent of Canadian women aged 45-64 have high blood pressure; whereas, 47 percent of women 65 years and older have high blood pressure. Here are some steps that you can take:
Seek options: Work with vendors to find more low sodium offerings. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, the introduction of food products with “low sodium” or “sodium-reduced” claims has increased 115 percent from 2005 to 2008.
Maple Leaf Foodservice is currently reformulating many products to reduce the sodium content and now offers a variety of products that are low in sodium and “reduced in sodium”. The Healthy Selections line has many low sodium options including Original Sliced Beef and Pork, Sliced Beef, Pork and Turkey, as well as Shaved Beef. Another popular product is Ready Links Breakfast Sausages with only 300mg of sodium per two link portion. Maple Leaf also offers a variety of other products that are under 500mg of sodium per portion such as: Thick Carved Pot Roast, Pulled Beef, Pulled Pork, Raw Boneless 3.5oz. Pork Chops and Sure Slice Roast Beef, Turkey and Black Forest Ham.
Be prepared: Market research from Mintel reveals that more than half of consumers are now monitoring the sodium in their diets and are ready for communication about sodium from the foodservice industry. About 30 percent of consumers say that they “always” or “sometimes” ask for sodium information when dining out, so be equipped with accurate numbers of the salt content for all prepared foods.
Know what’s happening: In Canada, steps to reduce dietary sodium are being overseen by the Sodium Working Group. Chaired by Health Canada, the group includes representatives from foodservice industry groups such as the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. The next meeting is in the fall, and highlights from past meetings can be found at