01/31/2013 04:45 EST | Updated 04/02/2013 05:12 EDT

High sodium levels should be disclosed, health groups urge

A coalition of Canadian medical groups wants all food companies to be required to clearly disclose on the label if the amount of sodium in their products exceeds Health Canada's targets.

The move comes as the World Health Organization recommended new daily consumption limits on sodium for children.

The public health advice aims to reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

"Foods that fail to meet Health Canada's sodium-reduction targets …would be required to disclose that fact on food labels so long as that failure persists," the Centre for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement Thursday.

"The bill also obliges the federal government to implement the regulatory reforms concerning nutrition labelling on prepackaged foods and chain restaurant menus, advertising to children, nutrition standards for food procurement, and other measures."

Food & Consumer Products of Canada, which represents companies that manufacture and distribute food and beverages, said sodium reduction is a priority.

"Manufacturers have been on a journey of gradually reformulating products and introducing new ones," the group said in a statement responding to the measures proposed in Bill C-460.

The public health moves aim to tackle elevated blood pressure, which the WHO called the number one cause of death and disability globally.

"These guidelines also make recommendations for children over the age of two," Dr. Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s department of nutrition for health and development, said in a release. "This is critical because children with elevated blood pressure often become adults with elevated blood pressure."

The international guidelines vary depending on the child's size, age and energy needs, and apply to children over the age of two.

For adults, the new recommendation suggests less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium intake per day. The current limit is 2,000 milligrams.

Last year in Canada, 17 health organizations called on the federal government to implement a sodium reduction strategy, which includes an interim goal of reducing average daily sodium intake from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg by 2016.

Most people consume too much sodium and not enough potassium, the UN agency said.

The potassium recommendation is for at least 3,510 milligrams a day.

Potassium-rich foods include beans and peas, nuts, vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley, and fruits such as bananas, papayas and dates.