Federal Government announces new Food Health Strategy to revamp Canada Health Guide and improve food labelling.
Health Minister Jane Philpott announced Monday a new food strategy comprised of policy measures that include revamping the Canada Food Guide, making the nutrition labels on food more readable, reducing harmful food additives such as trans fats and sodium, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.
The main components of the strategy are as follows:
Firstly, she has asked Health Canada to come up with a replacement for the venerable Canada Food Guide in the form of a “suite of products” – from the classic chart you can stick on the fridge to an app – that are: Evidence-informed, relevant, written in plain language, easy-to-understand and follow and adaptable to food preferences. There will be a 45 day public consultations process beginning October24.
The second major initiative is to improve the Nutrition Facts labels on food. The plan here is to modify the labelling rules so there are standard serving sizes, more info on sugars, identifying additives such as dyes with common names and making the ingredients easy-to read, and actually put labels on the front of packages.
The third initiative in the minister’s food program is a plan to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, something Quebec has has been doing for over a decade with some success.
The fourth element in the strategy is the reduction of harmful food additives such as trans fats and sodium. In a written statement , the Heart and Stroke Foundation said it was “especially pleased to see regulations forthcoming to prohibit artificially produced trans fats in our foods and restaurants. This is important because although we have made great progress, there are still high levels of trans fats in baked products and foods often consumed by children.”
All of the actions announced by the minister were part of the Liberals campaign platform and her ministerial mandate letter.
In developing and implementing the details of the policy, Philpott will have to contend with intense behind-the-scenes intense lobbying from groups such as Food and Consumer Products Canada (FCPC), the lobby group for Canada’s packaged food industry. In its release in response to the food strategy announcement, the industry lobbying group said that the strategy represented “an unprecedented amount of change that will require an unprecedented level of investment and resources (on the part of the industry) in an unprecedented timeframe. This will change what’s in our products, what’s on our product packaging and how those products are marketed”.
In an excellent article in the New York Times published October 5, noted food expert Michael Pollan detailed the enormous resources that the American food industry threw into derailing President Obama’s healthy food initiatives.