Restricting food marketing to kids: doesn’t Health Canada know what’s healthy and what’s not?

Kudos to Health Canada for their continuing efforts to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to our children. But it seems there is some confusion on the part of Health Canada about what is considered to be healthy  .

Back in 2015, the government committed to restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and they’ve been working towards that goal. To that end Health Canada has just published an update on its proposed direction for the development of these regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

You can read the update here.

But before coming up with the regulations, defining what is indeed healthy and unhealthy needs to be undertaken and it’s not always an easy task. Check out the list below.

But I really have to wonder about Health Canada’s definition.

As you can see below, ready to eat cereals, such as shredded wheat, are on the list of foods without marketing restrictions. With this criteria, it seems that simply because they’re unsweetened, cereals like puffed rice or wheat are considered to be healthy. Neither of these cereals is made from whole grains.

Then there’s the hot cereal with oats being an example. How about cream of wheat? It’s unsweetened and seems to fit under Health Canada’s definition of healthy. Just because a food doesn’t contain added sugar, it still may not be promoting good health.

What about the listing of low-sodium breads and crackers. Where’s whole grain in front of those foods?

And low sodium chips and  french fries?

Huh?

I thought we were moving away from this approach of a food being healthy simply because it doesn’t contain certain ingredients. Didn’t we learn our lesson during the fat-phobia period when people ate unlimited amounts of fat-free cookies which sent their weight soaring?

Refined grains, according to a bounty of research , are no different than added sugar in boosting the risk for disease. Whole grains, on the other hand, offer an array of disease-fighting weaponry.

Health Canada, how about changing both bread, crackers and cereal listings on the healthy side to whole grain?

Then there’s the list, “Foods subject to marketing restrictions” which includes “most breads, white and whole wheat”. Most breads? Yes, most breads are not low in sodium. And yes, whole wheat in Canada is not a whole grain (I won’t get started on that nonsense but you can read about my thoughts on that ridiculousness here).


But where are whole grain breads in these listings? The message here to Canadians is that most breads are unhealthy. If you’re a low-carb advocate, then you would agree with that. But science shows that whole grains are health-promoting and disease-fighting foods.

While I applaud Health Canada’s efforts in going forth with regulations to restrict unhealthy food marketing to kids, let’s get it right when we tell Canadians what’s healthy and what’s not.

Do you agree/

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Categories: Rosie's Rants, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

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

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