Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Health Canada's Whole Grain Cover Up

I'm the first person who'll tell you there's plenty I don't know, but I have to admit I was surprised to learn what I didn't know about "whole wheat" in Canada.

This morning Rosie Schwartz, consulting dietitian, author and National Post columnist exposed yet another Health Canada failing - turns out that in Canada a food label that reads 100% whole wheat doesn't mean that it contains 100% whole wheat!

A labeling law dating back to 1964 allows products with roughly 70% of the whole grain's germ removed (in this case the word germ refers not to a bacteria but rather to the germ, the bran and the endosperm of the wheat) to still call themselves whole wheat.

Frankly I'm flabbergasted.

Rosie contacted often posted about here Dr. Walter Willett from Harvard to offer his thoughts on this matter and here's what he had to say,

"Whole wheat should mean the whole wheat and nothing but the whole wheat. Excluding part of the germ means the loss of essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other important nutrients. Whole grain consumption can reduce risks of heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. Consumers of "whole grains" with 70% of the germ missing may be rudely disappointed when they land in hospital"
Combine that with Health Canada's brilliant recommendation to make only "half your grains whole" in the draft Food Guide (fingers are firmly crossed hoping this will change) and you can basically kiss the benefits of whole grain consumption goodbye to anyone following the Food Guide's recommendations.

If this upsets you as much as it does me, you can do something about it.

Until February 12th, 2007 Health Canada is accepting submissions for a revision on their definition of whole grain.

You can send your submission to:
Section Head: Nutrition Labelling and Claims
Nutrition Evaluation Division, Health Canada
Sir Frederick G. Banting Research Centre,
251 promenade Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
A.L. 2203A
Ottawa, ON Canada, K1A 0K9
Or email them at: healthclaims_submissions@hc-sc.gc.ca

Though why they need folks to send their submissions to help change a labeling law that contributes to increased morbidity in Canadians is beyond me, but far from surprising given the political, industry pandering, bureaucratic quagmire that apparently is Health Canada.