If you live in Canada, you’ve likely heard the news that on October 24, 2016, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, announced that Health Canada is seeking to help Canadians make healthy food choices. The announcement included a number of strategies and areas that will be targeted including:
• Revising Canada’s Food Guide
• Strengthening nutrition and ingredient labelling, including sugars and food colours
• Reducing sodium in foods
• Eliminating industrially produced trans fat
• Restricting marketing to children
• Nutrition North Canada
At first glance, it looks as though we may have turned a corner and gone from a government where the financial health of corporations always seemed to come before that of the physical health of Canadians.
But is this really the case?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so skeptical.
Maybe we are really in for a change. But while the intentions may indeed be there, is the government actually capable of making it a reality or do we have such a complex bureaucracy that it will never happen?
Case in point: the timelines listed for implementation of the strategy of marketing unhealthy foods and beverages to children is 5 to 10 years.
5 to 10 years?
Why would it take that long? Quebec has advertising bans in place which could be used as a framework for federal regulations. Even suggesting a time frame such as this makes me wonder about the whole process.
Yes, we’ve seen the talk in the past: expert committees looking to slash our sky high sodium intakes (2010), a task force recommending regulations to rid our food supply of trans fats (2006 and so old, it’s archived on the website) and even transparency in drafting regulations. When the regulations were developed the Natural Health Product Directorate, the bios listed on Health Canada’s website of those working on the framework were academics and not from industry. Yet when I did a quick search online, some names were prominently displayed as consultants to various supplement companies.
I certainly hope that the times have changed. Time will tell.
In the meantime, the first step listed is to seek input from Canadians on Canada’s Food Guide, a tool which hasn’t been revised in almost a decade and one that has been widely criticized since day one. Health Canada is undertaking an initial 45-day consultation with Canadians and stakeholders. The consultation period runs from October 24 to December 8, 2016. We’re being told that the input received will be used to develop new dietary guidance tools that better meet the needs of different audiences.
Again my skepticism may be showing here. We were asked for input on proposed revisions of nutrition labels and many people stated they were in favour of an “Added Sugars” line on the label, something Health Canada had themselves proposed. After the consultation, the concept of an Added Sugars line was dropped.
But again, it’s a new government and maybe there will be change.
In the meantime, it’s worth a try.
Start with providing your input for the food guide. I would love to see ours here in Canada take a page from Brazil’s dietary guidelines. Here again are some tasty tidbits.
Ten Steps to Healthy Diets proposed by the Brazilian Population Ministry of Health.
1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet
2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparation
3. Limit consumption of processed foods
4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed foods
5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods
7. Develop, exercise and share cooking skills
8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals
10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing