CBC’s the Great Salt Shakedown: easy to swallow?


I encourage Canadians to watch CBC’s recently aired MarketPlace episode: The Great Salt Shakedown examining Canadian’s struggle to reduce dietary sodium (http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/ ).

By measuring 24 hours worth of sodium intake using urine samples, the show examines how much sodium Canadians are taking in by examining how much comes out. A hockey team, a swim team and a high school class are asked to participate. The average results are well above the UI (upper limit).

By looking at the sodium intake of “healthy” Canadians the show illustrates the high amounts of sodium Canadians are eating and that the current Federal Government response to the situation is inadequate. Many – if not most – interviewed thought they were eating healthy foods and avoiding sodium and were very surprised to see their very high intake results. Those who thought they were eating healthy were the most shocked – including a vegan swim team member. It was painfully obvious how difficult Canadians find it to identify healthy food, and how difficult it is to understand the current nutrition fact table. Even for those who can technically understand nutrition labels, the misleading nature of the presentation of the information can sometimes lead to misunderstanding.

There’s another reason why it’s difficult for Canadians to keep track of their salt intake: the amount of sodium indicated on nutrition labels by the food industry can be markedly lower than what is actually in the food.

The show ends with a senior Member of Parliament responsible for health indicating industry is voluntarily working on the problem, then blaming individual Canadians for not doing enough on their own. This person further attempts to argue that voluntary food industry programs are successful but is put off-guard by the Marketplace interviewer.

Unfortunately, the show does not point out that an extensive review of sodium reduction programs commissioned by the US government indicates voluntary sodium programs do not work. Nor does the show mention there is a private members bill in Parliament for a comprehensive and effective sodium reduction program. Nevertheless, this episode of CBC Marketplace does an excellent job of highlighting the struggles of Canadians in choosing and eating ‘healthy food’ and a government that appears to be more interested in appeasing the food industry than helping Canadians who are trying to improve our health.

The Great Salt Shakedown brings the issue to Canadians in an easy-to-chew formula. But the way this issue is being handled by government and the food industry is becoming increasingly difficult to swallow. We need to take action and do a shakedown of our own. Canadians have the right to healthy food sources, and need to demand our government ensure healthy choices are on the grocery shelves for us.

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