Sunday, November 12, 2006

Canada's Food Guide to Unhealthy Eating

Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating is an oxymoron.

Everything the Food Guide should be - an evidence-based, easy to understand and implement guide to lead Canadians to follow a pattern of eating that will minimize their risk of developing chronic diseases (including obesity) - it isn't. What's worse is that the proposed revision to the Food Guide, which as we speak is ready for it's release on an unsuspecting public, is still horribly flawed.

[NOTE: Original post updated to include information on the final, disappointing product]

I testified on some of the Food Guide's deficiencies in the House of Commons back in September. Since then Health Canada was recalled to the Standing Committee on Health, and on Halloween, the Standing Committee passed a motion to have the proposed revision to the Food Guide tabled before the Committee.

The next week I was asked to speak to the Canadian Medical Association regarding my concerns (Health Canada was also invited to present their case). My understanding of the outcome is that the CMA has expressed their concerns directly to Tony Clement, the Minister of Health.

Please follow the links below to explore the bizarre revision process, the involvement of the food industry, the dismissal of evidence-based research and the end results of 3 years of "work" at Health Canada.

  1. Big Food Has a Seat - Health Canada's bizarre inclusion of the Food Industry in the shaping of the Guide
  2. Broken from the Get Go - Get this, the revised Food Guide is based off of current Canadian dietary patterns....where 40% of all vegetables consumed are potatoes with over half of the potatoes being consumed coming from french fries or potato chips
  3. At Least You'll Get Enough Zinc - Health Canada cares a lot about nutrients...not so much about foods. Last time I checked, I eat foods, not nutrients.
  4. Consultation? What Consultation? - I suppose if by consultation you mean what fonts you like then yes, there was an extensive consultative process
  5. Please Eat White Bread - Why Wonder Bread's more in touch with the evidence on whole wheat than Health Canada.
  6. All Fat is Bad - Fat phobia still runs rampant at Health Canada.
  7. All Meat is Good, and Please Eat More of it - Beef farmers rejoice, Health Canada recommends Canadians eat more beef and still doesn't tell us fish is a healthier choice.
  8. Eat Less Fruit and Vegetables - Amazingly that's part of Health Canada's new recommendations
  9. Drink Lots and Lots of Milk - Don't worry about all that research that suggests that in fact it might not be so good for you.
  10. A Match NOT Made in Heaven - The 1997 Nutrient File and Canada's Food Guide working together to increase obesity.
  11. Oh, and you Can't have Ketchup - How Health Canada has ignored 25% of your dietary energy intake.
  12. Guidance? What Guidance? - The sage advice of the Food Guide on how to manage your weight
  13. Health Canada's Quobesities - My favourite quotes from Health Canada officials on the matter of the Food Guide.
  14. What Can You Do? - Some ideas about how to make your concerns known, and where can you turn to for sound dietary advice?
  15. Epilogue - A Grading of the final February 2007 version of Canada's Food Guide.
  16. The Bad Joke they Call "My Food Guide" - Did you know Health Canada thinks Chocolate Milk, Pudding and Muffins are healthy choices?
  17. Why the Food Guide Matters - How the Food Guide impacts the average Canadian, including those who don't read the Food Guide.
  18. Who Won the Food Guide Sweepstakes - Which of the many Food Industry interests squeezed the most out of their involvement in the revision?
  19. ? = 88.5 - (61.9 x age [y])+ PA x { (26.7 x weight [kg]) + (903 x height [m]) } + 20 - Health Canada's almost unspeakably useless means of helping you determine your personal Calorie needs
At the very base of this post there's a little envelope icon. Please click it. Send the post to yourself and then use your own email account to cut, paste and forward that enclosed link to all of your friends and family. If you're a blogger, please link to it. If you're a medical student or a dietetic student, please forward it off to your listservs. I will be updating this post with links to the entire series as it gets published. With enough public concern something can be done before the Food Guide is released.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that every year in Canada 21,000-47,000 Canadians die from diet and weight related illnesses that cost taxpayers between $6.6 and $11 billion dollars a year.

I believe that Canadians deserve a Food Guide that reflects medicine's best understanding of the effect of diet on chronic disease prevention.

I also believe that Canadians deserve a Food Guide that will not make them gain weight if they follow it.

Tomorrow: Big Food Has a Seat - Health Canada's bizarre inclusion of the Food Industry in the shaping of the Guide.