Ag groups continue food guide fight

Beef and dairy producers are opposed to Health Canada’s proposed revisions, including front of packaging labelling

LONDON, Ont. — Proposed revisions to the Canada Food Guide continues to rankle some groups.

“The Canada Food Guide is not just about revisions and updates to the food guide, which was necessary. It is about Health Canada’s strategy for healthy eating, which also includes other areas of interest like front of packaging labelling,” said Tom Lynch-Staunton, head of the public engagement division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

The cattlemen’s association questions the emphasis on eating plant-based proteins as opposed to animal-based proteins.

“We feel that is unfair because we know proteins are not equivalent. We know there are different nutritional benefits whether it is a plant-based protein or an animal-based protein,” he said.

Meat contains saturated fats and the new proposals are advising to cut back on these.

Proposed front of package labels could carry warning labels on foods high in saturated fats, sodium and sugar.

“Likely whole cuts of beef and other meats will be exempt from this labelling because they are a single-ingredient food,” he said.

Ground meats are not considered a single ingredient and could require a nutritional facts panel and a warning on the label. The CCA argues that ground beef is a single ingredient unless other meats or products are added to make sausage or other processed products.

The CCA is also not in favour of a proposal to bring sustainable or environmental food choices into the food guide.

“It is not that environmental impact is not important. Absolutely, they are important, but the food guide and nutrition of what we should be eating or not eating is so complex. Bringing in one other complexity will mislead people into making bad food choices and sacrifice the nutrition they should be getting,” he said.

The CCA has sent letters to the provinces and Health Canada asking the government to formulate a guide that supports a balanced diet with adequate amounts of animal protein. It also said dairy products should continue to have their own category rather than being included in the protein category.

“There are very simple changes they could do where we wouldn’t have concerns,” he said.

Dairy Farmers of Canada has also approached the government. In a written statement to the standing committee on health, the organization said the new health strategy could encourage under-consumption of milk products. There is scientific evidence showing consumption of milk products is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.

“Prioritizing plant-based sources of protein as the main source of protein over animal-based foods such as dairy products is not supported by evidence. Research continues to confirm that milk proteins rank as some of the most complete and highest quality proteins available and are particularly important for growing children and preserving healthy bones and muscles in aging adults,” said the letter.

Like the CCA, dairy farmers are concerned parents might offer their children plant -based products that do not meet their daily requirements.

In summary, the dairy farmers group made several recommendations.

  • It wants milk and alternatives to continue as a separate food group.
  • It stated that nutritional benefits of milk must be recognized and featured prominently in the future food guide.
  • The food guide should focus on moderation and a balanced diet and the consumption of nutrient-rich foods instead of limiting sodium, sugar and fats.
  • It suggested Health Canada reconsider its front-of-package labelling on prepackaged foods containing more than 15 percent of sugar, saturated fat or sodium, and consider the nutritional value of foods.

Sodium facts:

Health Canada released its 2017 sodium intake report and came to these conclusions:

  • The average daily sodium intake of Canadians is about 2,760 milligrams, which is higher than the established goal of 2,300 mg per day.
  • Overconsumption of sodium puts people at higher risk of high blood pressure and possible heart disease and stroke.
  • Fifty-eight percent of Canadians aged one year and older, and 72 percent of children between four and 13 years, exceed recommended limits of sodium intake.
  • Males consume much more sodium than females. More than 90 percent of males between the ages of 14-30 are consuming excess levels of sodium.
  • Bakery products, mixed dishes, and processed meats account for half of the sodium Canadians consume. Other important contributors include cheeses, soups, sauces and condiments.
  • The current average daily sodium intake of Canadians is lower than the 3,400 mg reported in 2004. This can be attributed to improvements in the estimates of the amount of food people consumed, methodological differences between the surveys conducted in 2004 and 2015, changes in dietary habits of Canadians, and changes in sodium levels in foods.
  • Voluntary sodium reduction in processed foods between 2010 and 2017, accounted for a decrease of only 240 mg, or eight percent in average daily sodium intake.

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