Health Canada’s arrogant lack of communication


Way back in the summer of 2014, Health Canada finally announced proposed changes to nutritional labelling regulations. The government laid out a timetable for the process which included consultations and input from consumers with quarterly actions by Health Canada. But somehow when they stated they would take feedback from the public and stakeholders until the end of August 2015 and had no commitment to any other dates or further steps, we didn’t realize that the process had been frozen in time.

We no longer have any commitments, dates, news or anything for that matter. I feel like a bride abandoned at the altar.

Last month, I became curious as to where we were in the process as the one-year anniversary of closing date for comments on the proposed changes, August 27, 2015, was coming up. I contacted Health Canada about next steps and was told by spokesperson Maryse Durette, “Moving forward, Health Canada will take into consideration the comments received during the consultation period and will continue to engage Canadians and stakeholders on ways to improve food labelling to help them make informed choices about the food they eat.”

As the answer seemed quite vague, I pressed for more concrete information as to what the next steps actually were. I asked what I thought were simple queries which would receive direct answers. My questions were, “How is Health Canada engaging consumers and stakeholders (through what process) and what are the timelines for this (since it’s been a year since the consultation period ended)? Is there no timetable?”

Since a few weeks had passed and I had not received any response, I decided to write an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to help Canadians get clear nutrition information on packaged foods.

I finally then did hear back from Ms. Durette. The official response was “Health Canada will communicate publicly the results of the evidence review in the coming months.” She added, “Basically, we’ll share the results in an announcement when we’re ready to do so. Those results will guide what’s next… You’re sure to hear about it when the time comes.”

Over a year to release the evidence review of the public consultation and we’ll share when we’re ready to do so? All I can say is that I’m stunned by Health Canada’s lack of follow through, transparency, willingness to communicate and more. Back in the days when the Conservatives were in power, as a health professional, I thought Health Canada held the interests of the food industry above that of the health of Canadians.

Now, under an almost year old Liberal government, they’re not even bothering to communicate. In Carly Week’s Globe and Mail article on September 6, 2016 on the FDA banning anti-bacterial soaps in the U.S. and Canada’s stance on the issue, the answer was vaguely similar. The assessment would be published “in the near future” and they would take further action “if warranted.”

Health Canada states in their mission statement core values: “We communicate honestly and effectively”. I’d hate to see what they call ineffective communication, wouldn’t you?

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

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

Get Enlightened Eater in your inbox

Subscribe to get the latest nutrition news, fresh recipes and more!

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: