Sodium – when you don’t want to be a world leader


There are times when being a world leader puts you in an enviable position but at other times, it’s the last place you want to be. It would appear that Canada is currently in this position right now with the release of  a new survey  by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) which once again looked at the sodium levels in the same branded breakfast cereals  sold around the world.  WASH,  established in 2005,  is a global group with the mission to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake.

The  survey looked at the nutritional composition (sugar and salt content) of ready to eat breakfast cereals in 29 countries and compared   19 products that were found in a large number of participating countries. These products were manufactured by the two leading manufactures of breakfast cereals, Kellogg’s and Nestle/General Mills. It’s interesting to note that not one single cereal assessed in the survey contained low levels of sugar.

Canada, once again, ranks near the top in sodium content in  a number of cereals. A previous survey found that the average sodium content one bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran you could buy in Canada contained almost quadruple the amount of sodium   compared to the same brand of cereal  in the U.S.

In this year’s survey results, Canada made it to the top 5   cereals brands with the highest salt content  with Kellogg’s Special K.  Canada’s Special K contains  double the amount of salt at 1.8 grams per 100 grams compared to countries such as New Zealand and Australia. Many other countries, such as Belgium, Greece, Morocco, the Netherlands and Norway clocked in at only 1.0 grams. The U.S., though, wasn’t far behind Canada at 1.69 grams.

While the U.S. topped Canada in the Kellogg’s All Bran Flakes category with 1.81 grams of sodium compared to Canada’s 1.54 grams, the majority of other countries’ offerings were less than one half at .70 grams.

So why do we rank so high in terms of sodium? I would hazard the lack of action by the Canadian government in following through on all the health experts’ countless recommendations has contribute to the  food industry’s behaviour. The Sodium Working Group’s report (an expert committee appointed by the government) was tossed aside. Then a number of years later, a  Private Member’s Bill- Bill C-460- The Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Act was defeated.

Are we in for a change with the government’s announced new healthy eating strategy? Time will tell.

But in the meantime, the government is asking for your input on their proposed mandatory   front-of-package labelling for foods high in nutrients that are a public health concern which includes sugars, sodium and saturated fat. The consultation is open until January 13, 2017.

Am I being a dreamer to think that, just maybe one day, we could come in last in this survey?

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Food Trends, Nutrition News

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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8 Comments on “Sodium – when you don’t want to be a world leader”

  1. Kathy Feltmate
    November 30, 2016 at 6:12 am #

    Rosie, this is so depressing. Each time I am in the US I bring back All Bran. Isn’t that an exciting addition to a travelling suit case? Waiting for that to be unnecessary,but not holding out hope.
    Keep up your excellent work.
    Next question…what should I be doing with my Vitamin D supplements?

    • November 30, 2016 at 7:59 am #

      Thank you for your feedback, Kathy! Yes, the state of some food products is indeed depressing. It is ridiculous that companies such as Kellogg’s are waiting for government action! Maybe we need to start letting the food industry know we want change. I’m hoping that our government will act but who knows? Why are you asking about vitamin D?

  2. November 30, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    Bottom line/good advice for consumers/eaters? Avoid processed foods?

    • November 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      Yes, Jean but there are a few issues here. Even though whole foods are best, consumers are still choosing these foods so as Canadians, we should be demanding food products to be made as nutritious as they are in other countries. As for processed foods, there are some worthwhile ones. It’s the ultra-processed ones we should avoid completely (an upcoming post).

  3. November 30, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    Thanks for sharing Rosie!

  4. Sylvie Dufort
    November 30, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    The Best cereals is Shredded wheat with 0 sodium, 0 sugar & 6 g fiber

    • November 30, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

      I agree, Sylvie! The problem is that many people want variety and they should be able to get it without a glut of sodium! If the companies can make these products with less sodium in other countries, why not do so here? Canadians deserve better.

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