Open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about added sugars on nutrition labels


Proposed label dropped by Health Canada

Proposed label dropped by Health Canada

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

As a practicing registered dietitian in Canada, it is indeed wonderful to see the example you set for our fellow Canadians. The headlines about your possibly being the fittest world leader and the articles about your fitness activities – yoga and boxing, for instance – show the citizens of our country that healthy lifestyles are indeed important.  Your family hikes this summer demonstrate that an active healthy lifestyle is important not only to grownups, but for the entire family.

With young children heading off to school I can only imagine that you, like most Canadian parents, want to ensure that you are filling  their lunch boxes with tasty wholesome foods that will promote good health. It is in this vein that I am writing to you today.

In 2015,  the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines for the intake of  added sugars.  They recommend  adults and children reduce their daily intake of added sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. They now state that a further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

Naturally occurring sugars bear no resemblance to added sugars. Fruit, for example, contains natural sugars, but offers a cornucopia of health benefits. While I am a registered dietitian, it doesn’t take a specialized knowledge to understand the difference between the almost 19 grams of sugar in an apple versus that found in 5 teaspoons of table sugar.

There’s a reason for the saying  an apple a day keeps the doctor away. In one study,  those subjects who consumed the most fruit compared to the least had a 41% lower risk of all-cause mortality. Fibre intake was also associated with benefit. Those participants who had previously not been fruit eaters at the start of the study but increased the  quantity they consumed during the research  had significantly reduced risk of mortality than did participants with steady low fruit consumption.

Added sugars (with an assortment of names), on the other hand, are linked to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  Simply listing  the two together, without an Added Sugars line,  discourages the consumption of  nutrient-packed foods containing natural sugars such as fruit and even plain yogurt.

In 2015, Health Canada proposed separating added sugars from natural ones with an Added Sugars line on nutrition labels. In the U.S., the Added Sugars line on nutrition labels will be mandatory  for most companies by 2018.  Meanwhile, though it’s clearly important information to enable Canadians to make the best choices for themselves and their families, Health Canada decided against requiring companies to disclose the amount of added sugar. As far as I understand, the only stakeholder who stands to benefit is the food industry.

If Health Canada’s mandate is to protect the health of Canadians, this is an egregious failure to do so. As a father and a practitioner of a healthy lifestyle yourself,  I urge you to review the research yourself  and  for you to  let me know why Canadians are not deserving of this important information which will help them make healthier choices and prevent diseases.



Rosie Schwartz, RD


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Children's Health

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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5 Comments on “Open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about added sugars on nutrition labels”

  1. atylermantha
    September 3, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    This makes no sense! Why would Health Canada go against proper labelling that will benefit all Canadians?

    • September 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

      I agree that this makes no sense when you consider Health Canada’s mandate to promote good health for Canadians. But there is opposition to this: the food industry. And unfortunately, it seems that time after time, when we would expect Health Canada to act on behalf of Canadians, they consider the financial health of food companies first.

  2. Mary Alton Mackey
    September 26, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    Excellent letter. Thank you for raising this issue with the Prime Minister.

    • September 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Mary! They’re very much appreciated! Now we need to contact our MPs, Health Minister Jane Philpott, Prime Minister Trudeau and keep at them!

  3. January 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on In Your Face Nutrition and commented:
    Read what Registered Dietitian, Rosie Schwartz, has to say about added sugars on food labels. I’ve reblogged this article as an introduction to the topic that I’ll be blogging again in the coming weeks. Do you think Canadians and Americans have the right to know whether sugar has been added to their food?
    I think so, I think “added sugars” should be clearly labeled on food.
    A Canadian petition is up and running to try to garner government attention on the past due topic here:

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