Concerned About the Food Guide? Ways You Can Engage

Health Canada is revising Canada’s Food Guide and your input is needed. Canadian beef is a locally produced, sustainable part of a healthy diet, and this should be reflected in the Food Guide recommendations for healthy eating. Input is needed from the public to ensure that the health and environmental benefits of Canadian beef are recognized by the new Food Guide and in turn, the general population.

What’s Happening?

Canada’s Food Guide is under currently under review by Health Canada, with the goal of having a revised Guide by 2018. In the spirit of full transparency, consultation is open to concerned citizens (the public), as well as health professionals and food industry members.

Some Background on The Food Guide

Canada’s Food Guide was first released in 1942 with the intention of providing practical healthy eating recommendations, based on the best available evidence, to help individuals make informed food choices. It has been revised seven times, with the most recent release in 2007 (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide). A revision to the Food Guide is part of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy , launched Oct 2016. The intention of revising Canada’s Food Guide is to address the changing food environment.

Why You Should Be Involved

The Food Guide is well intentioned and has some progressive and insightful recommendations. However, there are also some recommendations that could have negative consequences for the beef industry by discouraging consumption without being fully-grounded in fact.

Of significance to Canadian beef:

  • Recommendation to lower consumption of red & processed meats, with a preference for plant-based protein choices
  • A ‘protein food category’ is being recommended, rather than the Meat & Alternates and Dairy food groups. This implies that all protein sources are created equal and have comparable amounts of readily-digested protein, which is incorrect.
  • There is a recommendation to replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. For those concerned that red meat (beef) is a primary source of saturated fat, this information could be seen as a recommendation to reduce red meat consumption.
  • There is the recommendation around sustainable diets – encouraging the public to eat sustainably by choosing food produced by systems that have lower environmental impacts. Given the lack of information and misinformation circulating about beef’s impact on the environment, this may drive people to choose another protein source they view as more sustainable.

What You Can Do

Health Canada is looking for individuals rather than organizations to weigh in on the proposed changes, and that means you. The more people that share the message that Canadian beef is healthy and sustainable the better. It would likely be most powerful to enter your objections as a concerned citizen rather than a farmer or rancher, so that it is seen unbiased. Whatever action you choose, please do opt to contribute as this issue is of vital importance to our industry.  Options include:

  1. Contact your MP with a letter to voice your concerns.
  2. On your social media platforms, reference the Open Letter from Physicians and other links (see the Powerful Links document for more links: Change the Food Guide. Read it. Forward it. Sign the petition that you find there.
  3. Get Social – if you follow along with Food Guide conversations, just re-tweet or re-post those that you are in agreement with. Use the Powerful Links document for references or look to industry social media pages (ex. Canadian Beef, Beef Advocacy Canada)
  4. Enter in your own personal contribution to the Food Guide. DEADLINE IS AUGUST 14.

You can submit to the Consultation and/or there is the opportunity to voice your opinion in forum discussions that live online. Make your voice heard. Food Guide Consultation

TIPS: Remain professional, use appropriate language and be respectful. If you slander/harass or are disrespectful, the moderator will remove your submission. It might be wise to submit as a General Citizen rather than a farmer/rancher so that you look like you have less of a bias.

Public Consultation

To take part by submitting into the consultation, CLICK ON THE GREEN BOX – Register here.

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Once you have registered your profile, to continue to fill in the survey, click on the box that identifies that you are a concerned individual – ‘for myself, my family and others I care about’ – the image of the girl eating the cucumber (not “to help others through my work….”). After registration, click this box and continue to fill out the survey, not complete your profile.

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See below for a detailed guide for submitting to the consultation, but please do not cut and paste – using your own voice is very important. Add in your own emotional tone BUT maintain professionalism and avoid rude or inflammatory language. Add in supporting links if you wish.

NOTE: the Health Canada information is in YELLOW – examples of to reply are in italics.

Canada’s Food Guide Public Consultation: Tips for Submission

HC QUESTION 1. Please choose what best describes you. Are you giving us your feedback:

Select: “Someone who cares about healthy eating recommendations for you, your family or friends.”

The assumption here is that you are an individual and that your response is not part of an organized lobby effort. If your submissions are spotted as ‘Replication’ or ‘Repeat’, your contribution may be removed by the Moderator.

HC Recommendation 1: A variety of nutritious foods and beverages are the foundation for healthy eating.

Health Canada recommends:

. Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods*-especially plant-based sources of protein

. Inclusion of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that contain mostly saturated fat

. Regular intake of water

*Protein-rich foods include: legumes (such as beans), nuts and seeds, soy products (including fortified soy beverage), eggs, fish and other seafood, poultry, lean red meats (including game meats such as moose, deer and caribou), lower fat milk and yogurt, cheeses lower in sodium and fat. Nutritious foods that contain fat such as homogenized (3.25% M.F.) milk should not be restricted for young children.

Select: Strongly disagree

Example response:

What you like about the recommendation: I agree with the premise that we need to increase eating of foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods. I also support that this encourages eating wholesome, minimally processed foods.

What you dislike about the recommendation: To promote legumes, nuts and seeds as the rich sources of protein is incorrect and misleading information, as these foods provide less and lower quality protein than do animal foods, often with higher calories per serving needed. There is no need to promote/encourage eating plant based proteins vs animal based proteins as both can be part of a healthy diet. It seems to be a disservice to our health to insinuate that beans or tofu are equivalent to meat and meat products from a nutrition and health perspective because they just simply are not. The availability of iron and zinc and the quality of protein in plant based protein sources is inferior or not as accessible to our bodies as the same nutrients found in beef. I would worry that certain demographics would be at risk of being deficient in iron and zinc by being encouraged to reduce the amount of red meat they eat.

 HC RECOMMENDATION 2: Include foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat instead of foods that contain mostly saturated fat

Select: Strongly disagree

Example response:

What you like about the recommendation: Being conscious of and understanding fat intake is positive, however it needs to be framed properly and understood that ‘fat does not make you fat’.

What do you dislike about this recommendation: This is no longer the accepted standard in nutrition and is based on old science. Information put out by Heart and Stroke Foundation, a credible source, does not name saturated fat as being a health issue, stating “If Canadians eat a healthy, balanced diet and appropriate portions, saturated fat intake should not be an issue.”

 HC RECOMMENDATION 3: Regular intake of water

Select: Strongly agree

Example response:

What you like about the recommendation: This recommendation is sound, as long as it does not imply that milk and juices do not have a role in a healthy diet.

What do you dislike about this recommendation? Nothing

HC: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY ABOUT PRINCIPLE 1:

Example response:

Although the recommendation seems well intended, I personally do not believe in abandoning the four food groups. I wouldn’t know how to shop with the guidelines of selecting foods from a protein group. Animal proteins provide nutrients in higher, more digestible amounts, therefore it is misleading to promote plant-based proteins as superior.

HC Guiding Principle 2: Processed or prepared foods and beverages high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat undermine healthy eating.

Health Canada recommends:

. Limited intake of processed or prepared foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat

. Avoidance of processed or prepared beverages high in sugars**

** Processed or prepared beverages that can be high in sugars include: soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, 100% fruit juice, flavoured waters with added sugars, energy drinks, sport drinks, and other sweetened hot or cold beverages, such as flavoured milks and flavoured plant-based beverages.

Select: Somewhat disagree

Example response:

What you like about the recommendation:

It is good to suggest that people cook from scratch more, but the idea of what is processed/prepared is a tricky one. It would be helpful to define these terms and perhaps divide ‘processed’ into subcategories, as there may be some foods, frozen vegetables for example, that are processed in some way but still provide nutritional value and are convenient and affordable.

What do you dislike about this recommendation: Focusing in on 3 nutrients doesn’t seem to take into account that some of these foods may still have lots of value to offer in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. For example – saturated fat should especially not be in this group (see the Heart & Stroke reference on Saturated Fat).

HC PRINCIPLE 2 Recommendation 2: Avoidance of processed or prepared beverages high in sugars**

** Processed or prepared beverages that can be high in sugars include: soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, 100% fruit juice, flavoured waters with added sugars, energy drinks, sport drinks, and other sweetened hot or cold beverages, such as flavoured milks and flavoured plant-based beverages.

Select: Somewhat disagree

Example response:

What do you like about this recommendation?

It is good to try to curb the drinking of soft drinks, and avoidance of high sugar beverages that offer no nutritional value (e.g. energy drinks/pop). Orange juice is not equal to soft drinks, although it does have high sugar level.

What do you dislike about this recommendation?

Some ‘processed high sugar beverages’ like chocolate milk have a lot to offer nutritionally. It would be good to further explain this.

 HC Is there anything else you would like to say about Principle 2 and the recommendations to Limit intake of processed or prepared foods and beverages high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat

 Example response:

Focusing on processed vs non processed foods does not take into account foods that offer a lot of good nutrition versus those that are just empty calories. It is confusing – what is processed? Does it take into account frozen vegetables and burger patties, wholegrain breads, deli meats, hummus, and yogurt – are these processed foods? Not everyone can afford or have access to a variety of fresh veggies and fruit year round. Could it be changed to nutrient-rich vs nutrient-poor foods?

HC Guiding Principle 3: Knowledge and skills are needed to navigate the complex food environment and support healthy eating.

Health Canada recommends:

. Selecting nutritious foods when shopping or eating out

. Sharing meals with family and friends whenever possible

. Planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks

HC Recommendation 1: Selecting nutritious foods when shopping or eating out

Do you agree or disagree with this recommendation?

Select: Somewhat agree

Example response:

 What do you like about this recommendation?

It seems like practical and do-able, and makes sense. People do eat less and make better choices when  they eat at home. People need to learn/know how to prepare foods.  

What do you dislike about this recommendation?

 People need more than just promotion of the idea, they need the practical information on how to prepare it, store it and put meals together.

HC QUESTION 10: Recommendation 2: Planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks

Do you agree or disagree with this recommendation?

Select: agree

Example response:

What do you like about this recommendation?

This is good to encourage us to take the time to work on planning and preparing meals as it is a healthier way to eat.  

What do you dislike about this recommendation?

It seems that some processed and/or foods would help make this possible – and if the other part of the Guide discourages the use of processed foods, then this recommendation is not practical for many families. The term processed is not understood and maybe not the same idea for everyone. It is important to explain this thoroughly.

HC QUESTION 11: Recommendation 3: Sharing meals with family and friends whenever possible

Select: agree

Example response:

What do you like about this recommendation?

It is nice that this considers foods as more than just nutrients – it brings in the idea that the enjoyment of foods and mealtimes help us to eat better. Studies show that people are more likely to be mindful of portions and food choices if eating together and focussing on eating vs. other activities, like watching television.

What do you dislike about this recommendation?

N/A

HC: OVERALL COMMENT ON PRINCIPLE 3 (COOKING SKILLS)

Example response:

This is good in theory, but some practical guidance and programming would need to be implemented. A possible solution would be to encourage the teaching of cooking skills in school. Something where students would learn to budget, plan, shop and prep basic meals. Also encouraging lifestyle changes such as being more active and tips such as using smaller plates to control portion size.

HC CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Determinants of health
  • Cultural diversity
  • Environment

HC Comment on Environment: The way our food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed – including the losses and waste of food – can have environmental implications, such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), soil degradation, decreases in water quality and availability, and wildlife loss5. In 2014, the value of food waste and loss in Canada was estimated at $31 billion6.

The primary focus of Health Canada’s proposed healthy eating recommendations is to support health. However, there are also potential environmental benefits of shifting towards healthy eating. In general, diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact, when compared to current diets high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat. The application of skills, such as planning meals and food purchases can also help decrease household food waste7.

HC – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE CONSIDERATIONS:

Example response:

WHAT DO YOU LIKE?

It is good to think broadly of food recommendations when it comes to public health – activity needs to be part of the picture!

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT THESE CONSIDERATIONS:

Determinants of health should include activity as key. Processed foods need to be defined and allowed a place of inclusion for regions in Canada where fresh foods are not accessible/affordable.

The environmental impacts of growing food does not belong in recommendations for healthy eating. It would instead be useful to focus on reducing food waste, which will have the most significant impact both for the environment and for individuals.

Having the general public make decisions about the types of foods grown based on sustainability data that is not proven or measurable and can help perpetuate misinformation. For example, grazing livestock help preserve Canada’s grassland habitats, sequester carbon and promote biodiversity. There is also a large difference in the types of foods that can be sustainably grown in Canada vs other parts of the world, and the Food Guide should promote Canadian foods wherever possible. It is important to consider the unique nature of Canada’s landscape and population and not define sustainability or healthfulness on data from other countries.

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