A clear answer from Heinz about sodium in their soup

I sent the following letter to Heinz Canada after almost buying a can of their soup, but then putting it back because of the alarming sodium levels. Their answer follows…

My email to Heinz:

“Can you please tell me why your soups have so much sodium? I almost bought your Southwestern vegetable soup today but then I saw the label and put it back. 820mg of sodium in a 60 cal serving? Wow! Im not sure Ive ever seen another food that is so sodium dense. Seriously! So 3% of daily calories has 34% of daily sodium?

Id love to hear how you can call this healthy.

Thanks,

Elsbeth”

To give you some perspective, the Health Canada recommended daily intake is between 1000 and 1500 mg (Health Canada). Even more shocking is that this “Healthy” soup has almost twice as much sodium as a Large order of french fries (420mg) at McDonalds (McDonalds nutrition calculator).

Here is the response I received from Heinz Canada:

“Hello Ms. Vaino,

Thank you for contacting us. Heinz Canada is proud to be celebrating our 100th year anniversary of producing healthy foods in Canada for Canadian consumers.

We agree that it is important to understand, and limit, the amount of salt consumed as part of a healthy diet. One of the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide is to limit foods high in salt (sodium). In addition, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check program in Canada has established sodium limits for various food groups and you will find their logo on Heinz products including tomato juice, Garden Select Pasta sauces and a variety of Heinz Beans which demonstrates our commitment to providing consumers with healthy choices.

We share your concerns about sodium content in food. That’s why, as part of our global health and wellness commitment, Heinz is focused on sodium reductions across our current range of products, including Smart Ones.

Sincerely,

Joan Smith* / Consumer Services / Heinz Canada”
*[EV Note: I changed the name of the signatory so as not to call out an individual]

Is it just me or was that a whole lot of words strung together that say absolutely nothing, and do not come even close to answering my question?

Apparently Heinz feels that they do offer healthy foods that are below “sodium limits” established by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and point specifically to their tomato juice. So I went to their website to see the sodium content of their tomato juice.
Heinz tomato soupThe website proudly states that “One cup of Heinz Tomato Juice contains 2 full servings of vegetables, 25 mg of lycopene, and is endorsed by the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Health Check™ logo.” Wow, fantastic. But curiously there is no mention of sodium. I went to the nutrition calculator on their site, and learned that this “healthy” juice contains 650 mg of sodium in a 60 calorie serving. I must not be very smart, because I don’t understand how something that contains 27% of the daily value of sodium in 3% of the daily energy requirements is healthy. Now if Heinz is saying that excessive sodium consumption is healthy, then I would understand. Because these products have excessive amounts of sodium.

I decided to go look at the criteria for the Health Check logo, and I learned something very interesting. The Heart and Stroke Foundation have changed their sodium requirements:

“Sodium criteria were reduced for most of the menu item categories in December 2009. A change in
sodium criteria for soups in the restaurant program has also been announced, reducing it from the
current level of 650 mg to 480 mg per 250 mL serving.” (Health Check website)

Further, the Health Check website states that: “All products currently in the program must meet the new criteria level by November 1, 2010 or forfeit participation in the Health Check program.”

So Heinz Canada is either in breech of the Health Check program requirements, or they have reduced the sodium content of their products, but have not updated their website to reflect it. Obviously it must be the latter, because a large community-oriented corporation would never allow themselves to be in breech of any laws.

I will be re-contacting Heinz Canada as well as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, so stay tuned for more.

And remember to check the sodium content on the labels of foods that you eat. Some of them will surprise you.

16 thoughts on “A clear answer from Heinz about sodium in their soup”

  1. I am the biggest salt content watcher. I have heart and liver disease. It seems that we can’t get a straight answer about the massive amounts of salt in canned soup and other products. I just opened a can of soup. It tasted so good so i looked up sodium content while it heated. I removed it and flushed it down the toilet. 890 mg of sodium and there was 2.5 servings. One 12 oz can of soup isn’t 2.5 servings. Paleeeze! Thank u but no thank u!

  2. I can’t recall if I got a response – I might have received a polite reply (they were very nice), but nothing that contained any more info than what was in the first response that is posted.

  3. The comment by “Damion Dunwiddie” is irrelevant to your post and is an obvious spam link; it should be removed.

  4. Thanks very much for that! My mum recently harvested her garden full of tomatoes before the winter really set in, and I found myself the owner of two or three buckets worth! Of course I couldnt eat them all, but I did find a website full of tons more tomato recipe at that site. A website dedicated the topic!! Crazy what you can find on the internetz nowadays!!

  5. Thanks for the insight Mark. I hate stuff like that. Cash grabs in the name of health to promote unhealthy products. Sigh. It will be interesting to see how the health check people respond to my email. This is what I asked:

    “What do you do about companies that purport to be compliant with the Health Check program, and that use the Health Check program materials in their marketing, but do not meet the requirements of the program?

    I have one further question about the program. Do you have any requirement for companies who display the Health Check logo to have all, or even a percentage, of their products meeting the program requirements? The reason I ask, is that otherwise, you can have companies placing the Health Check logo all over their website and printed marketing materials when the majority of their product does not meet the criteria. I’m sure you would agree that this can lead to confusion and misleading information for the public.”

    Then I sent the following back to Heinz Canada:

    “Thank you for your reply, although I noticed that you did not actually answer my question.

    Based on your reply, I decided to look into the Health Check program. It turns out that the soup that I noted does not meet the Health Check requirements, and interestingly, neither does the tomato juice that you stated below does meet the criteria.

    Are you aware that the criteria has changed, and that as of Nov 2010, the maximum sodium content for tomato juice is 480mg per serving? Because your tomato juice has 650mg per serving. So it does not actually meet the criteria, even though your website says that it does.

    Presumably there is a good explanation for this?

    Thanks for your time!

    Sincerely,

    Elsbeth”

  6. Canned soups are crazy high in sodium, I found Low Sodium V8 tastes pretty good and is only 140mg per 8oz.

    And that letter you got is a complete PR canned response, it will be interesting to see if they respond to a follow up with a more personal response.

  7. Will do, G. Just sent both letters out. I’ll be interested in the response. Maybe Heinz has a whole department of non-information. :)

  8. Oooh, glad to see i wasn’t the only one who’s noticed high levels of sodium in ‘healthy’ product. Thanks for posting this – it’s definitely interesting! Do keep us posted with more.

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