Monday, February 14, 2011

Should the Auditor General be investigating Health Canada?

So let me get this straight Health Canada.

4 years ago you commissioned an industry inclusive National Sodium Working Group who finally, after years of back and forth negotiations, managed to come up with an agreed upon series of recommendations which they published now nearly 7 months ago in their comprehensive document Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada.

And what's your response Health Canada?

To disband the Working Group itself and transfer their power over to the Food Regulatory Advisory Committee - a group with deep industry ties, and to hold more "Stakeholder" consultations with a survey and a call for input from industry ?

Um, wasn't industry part of the actual Working Group?

Given Health Canada's complete and utter disregard for the National Trans-fat Taskforce's industry inclusive recommendation that we regulate trans-fat in our food supply, a recommendation that's now nearly 4 years old, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

But here's the thing. My money and yours go to funding these Task Forces and Working Groups, and given the years of work involved in both, along with the time and expertise in researching writing and publishing their reports, I can't help but figure that the cost for the groups must be into the many millions. But those direct costs aren't the only ones taxpayers should consider and also worth considering are the costs of the increased morbidity and mortality associated with not following through with these groups' recommendations.

Personally I'd love to see an investigation into the whys and wherefores of these official governmental groups being ignored by the very government that's commissioning them - both from a political perspective in terms of pressure being brought to bear by special interest groups and in terms of money being wasted.

I also wonder whether or not there's a case now for a spouse or loved one has a case for a wrongful death lawsuit where their recently deceased partner had been eating trans-fats in restaurants Health Canada themselves have monitored and shown to be non-compliant with their call for voluntary trans-fat reduction? The case to my non-lawyer brain seems fairly straightforward. Health Canada and their Task Force have admitted that trans-fat in any amount is a risk to health, the government has demonstrated non-compliance with the voluntary call for reduction and they've failed to act both on the recommendations of the task force and their own promise of regulations were voluntary trans-fat reduction to fail.

At the very least, I sure wish they'd stop wasting my money on feel good working groups and task forces that they're clearly not planning to listen to anyhow.

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  1. Yoni, You seem to ignore the announcement make in September by the Health Ministers. Was it just powder to th eye?

    : Ministers adopted the interim goal of reducing the sodium intake of Canadians to a population average of 2,300 mg per day by 2016. This represents a reduction by one-third from present levels of 3,400 mg per day. In support of this effort, Health Ministers call on industry leaders to fast-track voluntary sodium reduction in food products, and to work with governments to increase education and awareness of consumers, industry, health professionals and other key stakeholders.

    Ministers support the immediate implementation of voluntary targets including a monitoring mechanism and engaging in exploratory discussions on the role that regulatory instruments could play and under what conditions they could be used.

  2. You're joking, right Paul?

    Otherwise how else can I interpret your enthusiasm for a press release that in response to the Sodium Working group's recommendations the government is hoping the industry voluntarily removes salt from their products.

    Perhaps they should also release press releases that state they support the voluntary reduction of calories in products, a voluntary reduction in screen time at home, voluntary increases in physical activity.

    Those press releases would be just about as useful as the one the Health Ministers released in September.

  3. Anonymous11:15 am

    It is our personal responsibility to eat in such a manner that we can live without to much medical aid. To this end I do not eat sugar, grain, lubricants and manufactured eatable product. This leaves fresh meat and vegetables, so I need to add a little salt, mainly for the iodine, but also because I sweat, but who cares.

    No one wants to say that French fries, or the trans fats associated with the fry, is the leading source of AGEs which are creating the heart attack industry. Eat them, and you increase your odds of early death. I just abandoned all isolated lubricants (n-6) from my diet.

    The medical diet industry need to get blunt, but clear on what some of these foods do to us. Carbohydrates become fat after the glycogen is topped up. That is the main source of body fat. Few people do physical work today, and those are a lot less likely to have weight issues. We do not need many carbohydrates today.

    The solution is personal responsibility for what we eat, and leave the government recommendations for the government people. The government concern is not with the individual, but that there is enough low cost calories to feed the masses to keep the food costs of the election platforms.

    But what do I know.

  4. Yoni, I was at a breakfast this morning with special guest speaker Sheila Fraser, Auditor General, so I took the liberty of mentioning this issue to her.

  5. That's great!

    Thanks Sarah.

  6. If you are talking about a wrongful death lawsuit against Health Canada, that would likely be barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

    I sympathize with your frustration on these issues.