Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Health Canada's Latest Debacle - Your Role

Right now Health Canada is sitting down with Big Food and asking them directly how best to display front of package claims that for Big Food will generate sales and for Canadians will generate confusion.

On this blog in the past you've read about the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check and how front-of-package labeling, even when put forth by credible organizations, can in fact do more harm than good.

In the supermarket products scream out at you they're healthy, and not only do you have to navigate Health Check, but you've also got Pepsi Co.'s Smart Spot and Kraft's Sensible Solutions.

So is there anything you can do?

I suppose, if you're really keen, you can read the 124 page discussion paper by Health Canada and then submit your formal response back to them. If you'd like to do that, you can click here to head to the page where you can download the comments form and find the addresses as to where to send it.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest in their March 2008 issue of Nutrition Action suggests a simpler course.

They invite concerned Canadians to either write or email Tony Clement or fax their MP to demand that at the very least, Health Canada adopt a national front of label program that evaluated ALL of the products available in the supermarket reflecting both nutrition and ingredients.

They have a suggested wording that I've modified slightly and you can click here to email it to Minister Clement. The email will be copied to the folks running the current consultation process, and while of course you can modify the content as you see fit, here's what it will say,

As a concerned Canadian who cares about my health, I urge you to conduct a consultation and then require simple front-of-package nutrition labels on ALL foods. The labeling should reflect both nutrition and ingredients and should have a transparent and evidence-based basis derived in consultations free of the involvement of the food industry.
CSPI will also be mounting a Fax your MP campaign which I'll link here when it's available, but is not quite live yet.

You can also find your own MP and email the letter to them using this site and your postal code to find the appropriate email address.

While I'm not sure an email and fax campaign will help one thing's for certain - doing nothing will certainly do nothing.

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  1. "As a concerned Canadian who cares about their health" should read "my (or our) health"
    Anyway, great initiative. Blog on!!
    YT Mads Buchter

  2. The email to
    bounced. Is it the correct one?

  3. Sorry about that - now corrected

  4. This is a great set of posts you got going a person trying to lose weight I find it satisfying to see that a lot of big food companies are trying to cater to the wants and needs of the healthy or those trying to achieve such a state. Conversely, I also find it increasingly confusing to determine which product or which company provides the best and/or healthiest products. I totally agree with what you're saying about the need for some sort of federally standardized nutritional facts program on the products being sold in the market.

  5. ND - have you ever actually looked at a pre-packaged food item? The little chart called "Nutrition Facts" IS the federally standardized nutritional facts program that you seem to think is needed. It is called Mandatory Nutrition Labelling and food companies have been required to include it for over two years now.

  6. I have no faith in governments to reign in the marketing ploys of the corporations so I simply opt out of the madness.

    As someone who has struggled with weight my whole life, I have learned that most all processed, packaged foods are my enemy. For many years I fell for the marketing ploys of "Lowfat" and "Sugarfree" and all that nonsense. No more.

    These days I shop mostly the outer perimeter of the grocery store for fresh fruits & veggies, meats, and dairy. Food prep is a bit more involved because I do not purchase packaged or frozen shortcut foods.

    I have spent hours in the stores trying to decipher food labels to find products made sans transfats, sodium, sugars, etc. It's just too much trouble.