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Toddler foods, children’s foods: assessing sodium in packaged supermarket foods targeted at children

  • Charlene D Elliott (a1) and Martin J Conlon (a1)
Abstract
Objective

To critically examine child-oriented packaged food products sold in Canada for their sodium content, and to assess them light of intake recommendations, the current policy context and suggested targets.

Design

Baby/toddler foods (n 186) and child-oriented packaged foods (n 354) were coded for various attributes (including sodium). Summary statistics were created for sodium, then the children’s food products were compared with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) ‘targets’ for sodium in packaged foods. Also assessed were the products’ per-serving sodium levels were assessed in light of the US Institute of Medicine’s dietary reference intakes and Canada’s Food Guide.

Setting

Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Subjects

None.

Results

Twenty per cent of products could be classified as having high sodium levels. Certain sub-categories of food (i.e. toddler entrées, children’s packaged lunches, soups and canned pastas) were problematic. Significantly, when scaled in according to Schedule M or viewed in light of the serving sizes on the Nutrition Facts table, the sodium level in various dry goods products generally fell within, and below, the Adequate Intake (AI)/Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) band for sodium. When scaled in accordance with the UK FSA targets, however, none of the (same) products met the targets.

Conclusions

In light of AI/UL thresholds based on age and per-serving cut-offs, packaged foodstuffs for youngsters fare relatively well, with the exception of some problematic areas. ‘Stealth sodium’ and ‘subtle sodium’ are important considerations; so is use of the FSA’s scaling method to evaluate sodium content, because it is highly sensitive to the difference between the reference amount and the actual real-world serving size for the product being considered.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email Charlene.Elliott@ucalgary.ca
References
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1. Nestle, M (2009) Cereal makers object to anti-salt ads in UK. http://www.foodpolitics.com/?s=cereal+makers+object (accessed June 2010).
2. Flegel, K, Magner, P, Hébert, PC et al. (2009) Get excess salt out of our diet. CMAJ 180, 263.
3. Garriguet, D (2007) Sodium consumption at all ages. Health Rep 18, issue 2, 4752.
4. Rynor, B (2009) Sodium working group to recommend voluntary reductions. CMAJ 181, E285E286.
5. Jeffery, B & Cappello, N (2009) ‘Salty to a Fault’: Survey of 318 Foods Shows That Many Are Too High in Salt. Ottawa, ON: Center For Science in the Public Interest.
6. Institute of Medicine (2005) Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: IOM.
7. World Health Organization (2009) Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases: implementation of the global strategy. http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB126/B126_12-en.pdf (accessed June 2010).
8. Department of Justice Canada (2010) Food and Drug Regulations C.R.C. (c. 870). http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cr/C.R.C.-c.870 (accessed June 2010).
9. Neuman, W (2010) One bowl = 2 servings. FDA may fix that. The New York Times, 6 February.
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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
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