Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Health Canada's latest health hypocrisy

Yesterday Health Canada effectively banned cadmium from children's jewelry.


Because if kids accidentally put it in their mouths, cadmium carries with it a number of medical risks.

And of course it should be banned, after all that's what governments are supposed to do with toxins. Here's our Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq's take on a government's role,

"Consumer products that pose a danger to human health or safety may not be manufactured, distributed, imported or sold in Canada. This proposed guideline makes our expectations of industry clear."
Begs the question of course, why then has the government failed to move on trans-fat?

According to the head of Health Canada's own Trans-Fat Task Force, trans-fats are,
"a "toxic" killer that need to be removed from the food chain as soon as possible"
"the longer we wait, the more illness and in fact death will happen, so we know we have to get it out of our food supply"
and that,
"there is no safe amount of trans consumption"
Tony Clement, the then Minister of Health promised in June 2007 (in a speech that Health Canada conveniently no longer hosts on their websites) that if in 2 years a voluntary approach didn't remove the toxin from our food supply, that regulations would be put in place.

And here we are, over 2 years past that overly generous deadline, and Health Canada's banning cadmium, this despite the fact that the toxin kids in Canada are most likely to put into their mouths in Canada is trans-fat (adults too).

If Health Canada actually cared about our health, trans-fats would have been gone back in 2007, no voluntary free pass, and no lip service about potential regulations.

Only reason trans-fat isn't gone is because politically, it's more challenging to do, and at the end of the day Health Canada sadly, apparently cares more about politics than it does about the health of Canadian children.

(What it really means is that there isn't much of a pro-cadmium lobby here in Canada, because if there were, there likely wouldn't have been any announcements made yesterday.)

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  1. Elaine10:29 am

    Bravo Yoni, for writing about this. I am an educator with a lot of interest in food and health, in creating curriculum support materials for use in formal and informal settings. Should you need this type of expertise, I can help as a volunteer.

  2. Without government limiting transfat in foods (or, alternatively, heavily taxing its use), it will continue to be used by, likely, a significant proportion of companies in different food industry sectors.

    If a company reduces it voluntarily, its food may relatively increase in cost or decrease in some qualities compared to its competitors. It might capture a bit more business from consumers actively looking for "healthy" choices, but it isn't going to capture consumers shopping on price, or other factors, or those who are uninformed.

    Transfat ought to be a simple thing to at least propose to tax. Unfortunately, there is a prominent ideological strain denying the very concept of market failures, let alone that taxation or regulation can mitigate them. As one Canadian self-styled economist has said: "No taxes are good taxes".

  3. Anonymous3:54 pm

    Excellent point Yoni! I couldn't agree with you more. As an RD I constantly get asked by my clients "why doesn't the government ban trans fats if they're so bad?". All I can do is shake my head. Really glad we have that trans fat task force to solve this incredibly complex conundrum (said with sarcasm).

  4. Anonymous7:36 pm

    So why is amalgam still used ?. It contains toxic mercury. But then Dr Coonie is representing Hellth Canada to abolish this, and at the same time represents the amagam companies. Hows that for ethics.Hellth Canada does not care . So with such chicanery no wonder nothing gets done - for us.