Monday, August 11, 2014

The Not So Sweet Reality of Health Canada's Proposed New Sugar Policy

My American readers may have missed this, but Health Canada, has proposed that on Canada's future nutrition fact panels there'll be guidance surrounding "total" sugar, rather than "added" sugar. Health Canada is advising a 100 gram cap on "total" sugar and so if something you eat has 25g of sugar, that'll be reflected as 25% of your total daily maximal recommendations.

What does that mean? I think Health Minister Rona Ambrose explained it pretty succinctly,
"we're treating sugar as sugar, whether it's from an apple or it's from a yogurt or it's from a cookie."
Why is this a problem?

Try this on for size.

If you had just 2 apples, a banana, a serving of carrots and 2 cups of milk you'll hit this nonsensical total sugar maximum with none of the sugars involved being added by anyone other than mother nature.

Perhaps that's why Marion Nestle was quoted in the Globe and Mail as stating if Health Canada sticks with this plan Canada will become "a laughing stock".

As to how these recommendations could have made it this far, aside from these recommendations appeasing the food industry, perhaps it's because as Minister Ambrose reported,
"The way we approached it - the way I approached it, is from a parent's point of view."
Here's a thought. How about we approach it from the point of view of science and consider the impact of diet on chronic disease which in turn suggests "added" sugar as the type we should limit, and instead of providing Canadians with the wrong message of capping "total" sugars at 100g, provide them with the guidance that "added" sugars be capped at somewhere between 25-50grams?

Please consider sharing this. Perhaps with enough noise this can still change.

[I'd tell you to go to head to the online consultation on the new Nutrition Facts Panel, but having completed it myself, it's clear Health Canada isn't interested in formative feedback. Instead they're wondering what you think of the size of the fonts they've chosen, whether you look at the %DV and if you think being told 5% is a little and 15% is a lot is useful, which of 3 approaches looking at total and not added sugars you like best, whether or not you think uniform serving sizes are helpful, if you like the new layout of the ingredient listings, and finally what you like most, what you like least, and any additional comments you might have....but not more than 500 words please. As far as I'm concerned, the online consultation is just a lip service exercise and far from a formative one.]