Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why the Food Guide Matters

Within moments of the release of the Food Guide (and I mean moments), Big Food started churning out their press releases.

"Kellogg Canada proudly supports today's launch of Canada's New Food Guide and particularly its key goal of helping Canadians choose the types of foods that will help them achieve a healthy diet, such as nutrient-rich whole grain cereals."
"Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), the national association representing Canada's food and beverage industry supports Health Canada's initiatives to educate consumers on healthy eating. The association, which represents companies who make and distribute nearly 80 per cent of all food, beverage and consumer products available in grocery channels, believes the advice provided to Canadians in the Food Guide is consistent with recent initiatives by the industry to reformulate products to reduce fat, sugar and salt and to provide different portion options."
"The Fisheries Council of Canada, the body representing Canadian fish processors, importers and marketers, supported the new Guide's development and is pleased with the progress to date: "This recommendation takes a big step in the right direction," said Patrick McGuinness, President of the Fisheries Council. "The new Food Guide clearly acknowledges the increasingly understood health benefits of eating fish."
"It's exciting to see that the new guide now reflects global expert opinion that consuming healthy fats, including mono and polyunsaturated fats, in moderation, is good for you," says Sharon MacLeod, Marketing Director, Spreads and Dressings, Unilever Canada."
And so too did various public health organizations. The Heart and Stroke Foundation applauded the lower salt message, the Canadian Diabetes Association applauded the addition of multicultural foods.

(Interesting sidebar here - a source of mine mentioned that Health Canada, 2 weeks ago, circulated the Food Guide to various NGOs with a specific request for a positive endorsement to help put some shine on this now tarnished product)

The press of course have had a field day with the Guide. There were a total of 104 articles published in the Canadian press yesterday detailing the Food Guide, so far at least another 20 today, and of course any article even remotely related to nutrition always references back to what the Food Guide recommends which last year amounted to close to 1,000 articles.

The other way the Food Guide affects us is that it ends up becoming part of many corporate product launches and promotions.

The award to fastest product push based off the new Food Guide goes to Unilever with their press release from yesterday that detailed all the different ways you could use Becel(R), Bertolli(R), and Hellmann's(R) products in consuming the 3 TBSP of healthy fat that our Food Guide has overtly told us to have.

I'm posting this so you don't make the mistake of suggesting that since most Canadians don't paste the Guide up on their fridges that it therefore isn't relevant. It permeates our nutritional consciousness and becomes the nutritional backdrop of our society.

It's a shame that our nutritional yardstick has turned out to be more like a nutritional ruler.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm going to preface this by saying that I LOVE food. Food-obsessed would not actually be a misnomer...

    That said, the problem is that the food guide is not bridging the gap between those who are nutritionally aware and those who are not.

    I'm 26, BMI 22-ish, relatively sedentary - if I eat 1600 calories a day, I pretty much maintain my weight. If I up the exercise, then I lose weight. Because I am food obsessed, I have a really good idea of how much fat/calories/fibre/carbs is in any given food I eat. I know how much of said things I should be eating (i.e., less than 30% calories from fat, at least 25 g fibre).

    I don't need the food guide to tell me what to do in this case. So all this research and money is going to have zero impact on my life.

    But then you have the people who have NO idea. They only have vague impressions of what may or may not be good for them, have no clue how many calories, etc. they need. It's like they're in a mental fog when it comes to nutrition (and they certainly have NO clue just how much sodium is added to their processed food). Odds are, they don't give two craps about the new food guide. Some people are set in their nutritionally-deficient ways and a guide produced by the government isn't going to help.

    The only people this is actually going to reach are school children, on the off chance some schools actually still teach a little bit of nutrition. And that's it.

    It still baffles me how, in this day and age, there are people my age and older who still haven't a clue how to actually plan and COOK a healthy balanced diet. I can't claim perfect balance (too much of a wino....), but I've got a food blog that will tell ya that I love to cook, with an emphasis on healthy, not-too-processed ingredients.

    I'm totally rambling. This is way too long to be a comment, and really....not even directed at you....just want to say, thanks for the insight. I enjoy reading your blog, and things like this keep me more on the healthy food bandwagon and less on the steak and rich creamy mushroom sauce bandwagon....thanks. :)