The Issues

In 2017, Health Canada released a detailed document that outlined some of their guiding principles for a new food guide.

You can find that here.

There are a number of things to be concerned about.

Choice Should Be Key, Not Guilt

“What is needed is a shift towards a high proportion of plant-based foods,” is one quote from the document. As the describe, they want to encourage less consumption of meats like beef, pork, lamb & goat, instead focussing on more nuts, seeds, moose & caribou. It is hard to know where to begin.

First, where a person gets their nutrients, and how they prepare their food, should be up to each and every Canadian. Some will prefer to consume their protein from plants, while others will prefer to consume it from meats. To stigmatize one over the other only further complicates the relationship people have with food. Health Canada should advise how many servings of Meat & Alternatives consumers need, or how much protein they should be eating — but should not get into the business of dictating meal ideas.
Further, to suggest Canadians move away from homegrown foods, to products that are mainly raised in other countries will create economic hardship across rural Canada.

But this move isn’t just about nutrition. There is a clear environmental objective that fits with the mandate of the current Liberal government. Unfortunately, they’ve spent too much time reading blogged research from Google, instead of focusing on the benefits of meat production here in Canada.

Environmental Issues

Farmers & ranchers take environmental stewardship incredibly seriously. After all, this isn’t just the place where they work. It is the place where they play and raise their family. It is in their best interest, and the best interest of Canadians for them to take care of the land, air and water around them. Here in Canada, we also have a large amount of land that is not suitable for growing fruits or vegetables on. But, it is land that can grow grasses. When livestock graze those lands, they promote biodiversity & soil health. It also turns a material that we as humans don’t want to eat, into a healthy & nutritious food source. Finally, we as humans also waste various types of products through processing. For example, we like soybean oil, but we don’t use the powdered product left behind. We like beer brewed from barley, but don’t like the left over ‘mash’ left behind. We even fill our car’s gas tanks with ethanol, made from corn – but leave behind an orange paste. All of those make great livestock feed in products that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill.

Front of Package Labels

To coincide with the changes to the Food Guide, Health Canada is also planning to put warning labels on the front of food packages that are over an invented threshold in either fat, sodium or sugar. The problem, is that invented threshold is going to make shopping a whole lot more confusing. On our trip to the grocery store, we found some chips and dips wouldn’t be labelled, but yogurts and cheese would be. A steak, pork chop, lamb chop and other meats would get a label, while Kraft Dinner wouldn’t. And a child would see a warning label on a chocolate milk, but not on a diet cola. This doesn’t make sense.

On top of that, countries like the UK & the Netherlands, who have tried variations of this, are finding it doesn’t work. Studies show people still buy what they want, no matter what it says. So why waste the money in the first place?

Ideology

As Conservative MP Tony Clement put it at a meeting in January of this year, “the ideologues are in charge and they’re lobbying hard to take meat completely off the Canada Food Guide.” The move away from meat and dairy isn’t just about health or the environment (it can’t be, because their data is wrong anyway!) but clearly their is an agenda being shoved onto dinner plates across the country. Health Canada should stick to the business of recommending how much of certain nutrients we need – then let us look at the label and decide what is best for our family!

Transparency

Health Canada is proving that transparency isn’t a priority, as most of the discussions have been behind closed doors, with little input. In their guiding documents they pointed to a research paper as to the reason behind the move, but the link is broken & has never been fixed. When nutritionist or dieticians approach them with ideas & observations, they turn them away if they aren’t suggesting the right type of observations, saying that industries are clouding their judgement. Canadians should be outraged that something as important as recommendations for their own health, are being done in secrecy without proper input.

Even a letter from over 200 medical doctors, nurse practitioners & dieticians seems to be completely ignored. You can read it here for yourself.