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The Government of Canada is changing the way nutrition information is presented on food labels so that potassium appears on the Nutrition Facts table by the end of 2021. This will help Canadians with chronic kidney disease make informed decisions for their health, as monitoring potassium intake is critical for patients. 

We strongly recommend that phosphorus also be listed on the Nutrition Facts table to allow those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to make informed decisions for their health.

Why is Phosphorus Labelling So Important?

5-3-3-4_Nutrition_Facts_Table_Health-Canada.jpgKidneys remove extra phosphorus from our blood and excrete it in our urine. Some phosphorus is beneficial, however, for someone with chronic kidney disease, too much phosphorus in the blood for a long time can make bones weak and cause minerals to build up in the heart, blood vessels, lungs, skin, joints, and elsewhere. Large amounts of phosphorus in the blood are also strongly linked with cardiovascular diseases and events, and death.1

Following a low phosphorus diet, as prescribed by a Registered Dietitian, is one of the best ways for someone with CKD to control the accumulation of phosphorus in the blood. 

Currently, kidney patients are advised to avoid all foods with phosphate additives because there is no available information on the phosphate content. This is unnecessarily restrictive and burdensome. While patients can avoid food known to be naturally high in phosphorus, avoiding phosphorus additives is much more difficult. Phosphorus additives are used in a variety of food products including breads, cereals, dairy products, pasta, meats, seafood, and canned fruits and vegetables2 to improve the appearance, texture, and shelf life.3 While checking the ingredients lists for phosphorus additives is a good place to start, the list doesn’t tell us how much phosphorus is in a food product.

Leaving phosphorus off the Nutrition Facts table prevents patients from being empowered to manage their kidney disease effectively and it puts them at unnecessary risk of serious medical complications, and even death.

With acknowledgement to Emily Robins, Dietetic Intern, Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, for her assistance in preparing this information.

1. Leon, J., Sullivan, C., & Sehgal, A. (2013). The prevalence of phosphorus containing food additives in top selling foods in grocery stores. Journal of Renal Nutrition. 23(4), 265-270. doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2012.12.003
2. International Food Additives Council. (2015). Phosphates.
3. Benini, O., D’Alessandro, C., Gianfaldoni, D., & Cupisti, A. (2011). Extra phosphate load from food additives in commonly eaten foods: a real and insidious danger for renal patients. Journal of Renal Nutrition. 21(4), 303-308. doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2010.06.021