The federal government recently announced a new healthy eating initiative that will see Canada's much-recognized Food Guide get chopped. The overhaul is part of a broader, multi-year strategy that will introduce updated rules for labelling food products and marketing food to children. Healthy eating is one part of the government's three-pronged approach to encouraging Canadians to adopt healthier habits (healthy living, to promote physical activity and deter smoking and vaping, and healthy minds, to promote mental health are the other two). Health Canada has committed to "use every tool at its disposal – legislation, regulations, updated dietary guidance and education" to help Canadians eat well.1
What You Need To Know
- Revising Canada’s Food Guide. A recent scientific review of the current food guide, last updated in 2007, found that the principles underlying the dietary recommendations were sound however, the food guide has limited practical value as it doesn't make distinctions between age groups, sex or levels of physical activity. In response, the food guide will be revamped and a variety of guidance material developed to reflect Canada's changing demographics and lifestyles.
- Strengthening Labelling, Including Better Labelling of Sugars and Food Colours. Changes will include regulating serving sizes to allow easier comparison between similar products; providing more information on sugars in the Nutrition Facts table and list of ingredients; requiring that all food colours be identified by their common name; making the list of ingredients and allergen information easier to read; and allowing a new health claim that associates a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Front-Of-Package (FOP) Labelling. Health Canada has proposed a new approach to help Canadian consumers make healthier choices by requiring labelling on the front of packages to indicate whether the food product is high or low in key nutrients particularly sugars, sodium and saturated fats.
- Reducing Sodium and Trans Facts in Foods. Health Canada will evaluate the food industry's voluntary efforts to meet the sodium reduction targets published in 2012 and engage with stakeholders to 1) establish new targets for sodium in processed and restaurant foods and 2) seek feedback and input on a proposed approach to eliminating industrially produced trans-fat in foods available in Canada.
- Restricting Marketing to Children. In an effort to reduce the exposure of children to the marketing of food and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fat acids, sugars or sodium, Health Canada will propose new restrictions on advertising to children.
- Openness and Transparency. As part of its policy on transparency and evidence-based decision making, Health Canada will share with the public the date and subject of meetings that are requested by stakeholders outside of a formal consultation process. The same applies to stakeholder correspondence sent to Health Canada. This disclosure is intended to allow industry stakeholders to comment on the proposals while ensuring the public that advice given in the food guidance will not be based on a disproportionate amount of input from parties with obvious conflicts of interest.
Health Canada is consulting with the public and industry stakeholders on most of these proposals. Consultations on the Healthy Eating Strategy and FOP nutrition labelling proposals will take place in the coming weeks. An initial online 45-day consultation on revisions to the food guide will run from October 24 to December 8, 2016.
1 “Healthy Eating Strategy,” available online at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=index&crtr.page=2&nid=1142029.
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