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Watch the sodium! Feds want Canadians to look closer at food labels

WATCH ABOVE: Consumers told to look at serving size and daily values to determine which is healthiest for them. Marianne Dimain reports.

TORONTO — The feds have launched the second phase of its Nutrition Facts Education Campaign (NFEC) aimed at helping Canadians make better, more informed food choices.

Friday’s roll-out of the “Focus on the Facts” campaign encourages taking a closer look at the serving size and per cent daily values listed on food labels.

“By using the ‘serving size’ and ‘per cent daily value’, consumers can choose foods that have more of the nutrients they want to consume, such as fibre and calcium, and less of those they don’t want, such as saturated and trans fats and sodium,” said the campaign’s news release.

READ MORE: Top 10: Some of the worst foods for your heart’s health

Often when looking at the nutritional value on a label, people fail to realize how small the portion listed might be. People often eat two slices of bread instead of the single slice listed on the package, or a cup of ice cream instead of the half cup reflected in the food label.

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On top of that, products can have hidden sugars or sky-high amounts of sodium.

Too much sodium can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease, according to Eat Right Ontario. Most Canadians eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s more than double the amount we need: healthy adults should aim for about 1,500 milligrams.

“If they’re looking to reduce their sodium intake they would look at the sodium per cent daily value,” said nutritional advisor Jennifer Giurgevich from Health Canada. “We know that five per cent daily value is a little and 15 per cent daily value is a lot.”

Critics said the government isn’t doing enough, despite this latest measure.

“Considering that between 48,000 and 66,000 people die every year in Canada as a result of nutrition-related illness — heart disease, cancer, diabetes — those kinds of measures simply just don’t cut the mustard,” said Bill Jeffery from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.

He wants to see nutritional info displayed in a more “user friendly way.”

Health Canada has proposed a string of changes to food nutrition labels that aim to make them easier to read for consumers. The way ingredients are listed would change so that sugars are grouped together, amounts of added sugar are clearly labelled, and a nutrients list must appear in the table, according to the suggested guidelines.

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With files from Marianne Dimain and Carmen Chai

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