Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UK says eat less beef & Canada spends tax $s encouraging eat more.

Peter Fricker from the Vancouver Humane Society noticed an interesting contrast a few weeks ago.

First the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended people aim to consume less than 70g per day of red and processed meat. Their Department of Health agreed, and indeed, their national dietary recommendations now include, aiming for a maximum of 70g daily.

They based their recommendations on their take of the medical evidence, which was by no means slam-dunk conclusive, but was suggestive enough to them (and me for what it's worth), to recommend limits.

Contrast those recommendations with these two recent Canadian announcements.

1. Agriculture ministers announce 19 pilot projects for enhanced meat trade

"Farmers and processors are proud of their safe, high quality meat and we're working together to help them sell their steaks or chops to their provincial neighbours," federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz stated in a release following Friday's ministerial meeting. "Breaking down trade barriers at home and abroad will yield greater returns for our meat industry and benefit all Canadians."

2. Canada Government help for giant beef processor
"Canada's biggest domestically-owned beef packing firm will get $1.6 million in government grants toward new systems expected to help double its ground beef processing capacity at Brooks, Alta"
So while the UK Government urges its citizens to scale back on their red and processed meat consumption, Canada extends helping hands (and taxpayer money) to encourage growth in meat sales, production and consumption.

And Health Canada's recommendation? 150-225g daily.

How's that possible? It's the same pot of evidence.

It's possible because nutritional epidemiology isn't mathematics. There isn't one obviously right answer and therefore it's always up for interpretation and interpretation can be influenced by a whole slew of things.

Take Canada for instance. Do you think the facts that Canada's the 6th largest beef exporter in the world and that beef's a $23 billion industry here could have anything to do with our Government's meat generosity?

Too bad nutrition's not as clear cut a science as we all wish it could be, and too bad that politics and industry will always be a huge influence on the recommendations of Health Canada - a non-arms length arm of Government.

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  1. Paulette Gougeon7:44 am

    Well it was the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommending less beef consumption.

    I suspect the UK Department of Agriculture & Rural Development is working on programs to support increased trade, business & production of beef.

    After all it is the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture that providing these programs, not Health Canada.

    All part of the Government of Canada - sure, but the different departments/ Ministries have different mandates (which can be in direct conflict).

    Any Health Canada recommendation on beef consumption would likely read similar to the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, as it would be based on health benefits/ risk rather than economic growth.

    Will that happen? Will Health Canada make a recommendation on beef consumption? Only time will tell.

  2. There's really little wrong with red meat.

    There may be problems with the way you cook it. Over cooking it in a barbecue may be cancerous, but red meat itself is harmless.

    Indeed red meat is good for you

  3. I know the projects for enhancing meat trade is to ensure food quality standards for inter-provincial trade. Ranchers will be able to sell their meat across Canada and consumers will have access to meat from animals that have been free range most of their lives.

    As the the Brooks expansion, better to process the meat here and export at value added than go through the export of live animals to me (and jobs)

    Meat is not a poison is it?

  4. Here is a good article about whether red meat is something to be feared

  5. What I find telling (in terms of industry influence on dietary intake recommendations) is the lack of recommendations about eating legumes and pulses. They are extremely good for us with stong evidence, as well as being affordable and versatile. Also a huge industry for canada (export mostly). The difference? The pulse industry doesnt have a strong lobbying capacity. And the conflict - you eat legumes and pulses as a replacement for meat - not what the beef industry wants.

  6. I'm just a dumb American, reading Canadian blogs, but what is a pulse?

  7. Anonymous1:32 pm

    Natalie: Not a dumb question at all. The term 'pulse' isn't actually used all that often here. As far I know it is more or less interchangeable with 'legume' (so beans, lentils, etc) but I may be wrong.

    Yoni: I completely agree with just about everything you said. My only beef (sorry, I had to) is with your statement about Health Canada recommending that Canadians eat 150g - 225g of beef daily. Are you referring to the 2-3 servings of meat and alternatives recommended in Canada's Food Guide? If so, I'm not sure its fair to say that they are suggesting that all 2-3 servings come from beef only.

  8. Indeed I am referring to the food guide.

    While you're right, it doesn't explicitly encourage beef to satisfy the protein recommendations, it also doesn't counsel against it.

    225g of hot dogs would be just dandy by the food guide.

    (And thanks for answering the pulse question - had forgotten to get to that)