Take action to support the Healthy Eating Strategy

Three years ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined his priorities for his new health minister. They included some big ideas to promote public health through healthy eating. They were, and are, urgent. Diet-related chronic disease is the leading cause of death in Canada and costs an estimated to cost $13.8 billion/year. (Source)

This is where Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy comes into play with a number of important action areas. Trans fat regulations were recently announced, but we’re still waiting for the three other pillars:

So what’s the hold-up? Big Food is pushing back hard. Over 130 meetings initiated by the food industry and correspondence with public servants working on the strategy — more than a dozen by the Canadian Beverage Association alone - paints a portrait of old-school industry tactics meant to protest industry interests by watering down and delaying health-promotion policies.

Canadians need strong federal leadership to stand up for the real public interest: healthy people, healthy communities and healthy local economies. Consumers making better food choices will help support a necessary transition to a food system that is healthier, more sustainable, and more just. We need government to firmly act in the public interest and implement some bold new ideas.

As we wait for the promised Food Policy for Canada, the government must decide if it will implement some Big Ideas in the public interest, or if it will allow Big Food to hold the rest of us back. Let’s send some strong messages that we need a Healthy Eating Strategy firmly in the public interest.

 

Take action on the Healthy Eating Strategy

FSC is calling for Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership on food policy, including the Healthy Eating Strategy, with a joint letter.

Consider signing a petition based on the “Calgary Statement”, a June 2018 nutrition policy forum and make your voice heard on social media. You can also sign this petition to the Minister of Health to implement an adequately-funded national cost-shared universal healthy school food program (initiative of the Coalition for Healthy School Food).

Here are sample tweets to Prime Minister Trudeau, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health:

We call on you @JustinTrudeau to exercise your leadership to deliver a #FoodPolicy4Canada and a #HealthyEatingStrategy firmly in the public interest. The time to act is now! We need Big Ideas over Big Food @GPTaylorMRD @L_MacAulay bit.ly/2zkP9JI​​​​​​​

The status quo of unhealthy eating in Canada costs us all too much. Canada needs a strong #HealthyEatingStrategy https://tinyurl.com/y9h4fqlv @JustinTrudeau @GPTaylorMRD @L_MacAulay

GET MORE TWEETS HERE

 

 

Understanding the Healthy Eating Strategy


The Healthy Eating Strategy includes a number of policies and processes. Below are three of the most important - all of which have been delayed.

 

Revision of Canada’s Food Guide

Why it matters?

Canada’s Food Guide acts as a foundation for nutrition education and meal planning in homes, school, hospitals, daycares and more. It’s the second-most downloaded government document after income-tax forms. Over the years, the guide’s credibility has been questioned because of the undue influence of industry interest groups. We commend Health Canada for building a firewall around the current process: Bureaucrats developing the guide will not take meetings with industry until after the policy’s release, to ensure it’s in the public interest, informed only by the latest evidence.

This has not stopped lobbyists from getting their message out through other government departments and processes, including internal memos intended to influence Health Canada’s work on the guide. What we need is a revised Canada’s Food Guide based on strong evidence.

Where is the process at now?

Health Canada clearly outlined the initial timeline for the Food Guide’s revision process. The latest communication was the Canada’s Food Guide Consultation - Phase 2 What We Heard Report released in March 2018. A new guide was expected early in 2018, and we’re still waiting.

 

Resources:

Big Squeeze: Inside the fight over juice in Canada’s Food Guide Nov 22, 2018. Globe and Mail.

Op Ed Big ideas of Big Food? It’s time for Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, ipolitics Nov 5, 2018

 

Marketing to Kids Legislation

Why it matters?

Research has shown that food and beverage marketing to children affects the foods they request and prefer. Not surprisingly, the food and beverage industry spends billions of dollars bombarding kids with advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages.

90% of the food marketed to Canadian children is unhealthy. (Source) With a third of children in Canada overweight or obese, and 70 per cent not meeting the minimum daily requirement for fruit and vegetable consumption, protecting them from advertisements for unhealthy food is an urgent public health priority.

Where is the process at now?

Bill S-228 - landmark legislation to protect children by restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages - was passed by the House of Commons in September 2018. The Bill is now stalled in the Canadian Senate, where a vote has been repeatedly delayed due to lobbying from the food industry. According to the Canadian lobbyist registry, 79 industry representatives have lobbied around Bill S-228, and 233 industry meetings with government officials have been documented. (source)

As a member of the steering committee of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition Food Secure Canada is taking action and calling on Senators to put Bill S-228 on their priority list for a vote before the Senate adjourns for the holidays.

 

Resources:

Op Ed Big ideas of Big Food? It’s time for Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, ipolitics Nov 5, 2018

The Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition website outlines everything you need to know about the issue, and you can sign-up to take action.

 

Front-of-Packaging Labelling

Why it matters?

The availability of ultra-processed food (e.g. going beyond canned fruits and vegetables) has grown dramatically over the past few decades, from 10,000 products in the 1960s to 40,000 products currently. And it has grown to be the biggest part of our diets.  

“In 2015, Canadians received almost half (48.3%) of their total calories from ultra-processed foods, with the highest rates of consumption among those in whom it can do most harm — children.”

(Moubarac, JC. “Grocery stores and Canadians are bulking up on ultra-processed food.” Toronto Star. 8 Feb. 2018.)

Health Canada’s proposed regulation for Front-of-Package (FOP) food labels will help Canadians to better identify healthier processed foods by labelling food products high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Foods that are healthy (e.g. whole and 2% milk, healthy oils) or self-evidently high in sugar or salt (e.g. salt, sugar, honey, maple syrup) will not require FOP labels, which was one of the sticking points identified by agricultural producer organizations in initial proposals.

"Health Canada projects 37,600 products to be affected by front-of-pack labels, while Agriculture Canada’s estimates land in the field of 84,000." (source)

 

Where is the process at now?

Front of Package regulation is being delayed due to push back from industry. Health Canada has conducted regulatory consultation of Canada Gazette Part I, and consumer consultations on food front-of-package nutrition symbol’s, which closed on April 26, 2018. We are still waiting for the final amendments.

 

Resources:

Op Ed Big ideas of Big Food? It’s time for Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, ipolitics Nov 5, 2018

Health Canada’s consultation document Toward Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels for Canadians

Health Canada’s Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling: September 18, 2017 Stakeholder Engagement Meeting

Inside the fight to label sugary, salty and fatty foods in Canada Globe and Mail Nov 8, 2017.

 

 

Take action


Here are some sample tweets:

Take action on Canada’s Food Guide:

What’s the hold up with #CanadaFoodGuide ? The status quo of unhealthy eating in Canada costs us all too much. Canada needs a strong #HealthyEatingStrategy @JustinTrudeau @GPTaylorMRD @L_MacAulay bit.ly/2Pqplke

 

A strong Canada Food Guide is a win/win for Canadian health and agriculture. Let's make it happen! #HealthyEatingStrategy #CanadaFoodGuide @JustinTrudeau @GPTaylorMRD @L_MacAulay bit.ly/2Pqplke

Take action on marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids:

#BillS228 will protect kids from unhealthy food marketing but we're still waiting for a final vote in #SenCA . What’s the hold up? Senators, please put public interest over private profit and vote now! #HealthyEatingStrategy #Marketing2Kids

 

#DYK 90% of the food marketed to Canadian children is unhealthy! Children deserve to be protected from junk food #Marketing2Kids   #BillS228 has waiting long enough for a final vote in #SenCA  Let’s make it happen! #HealthyEatingStrategy bit.ly/2Pqplke

Take action on Front-of- packaging labeling:

#DYK 87% of Canadians agree that a health alert label for foods high in sugar, sodium or saturated fats would be helpful when grocery shopping. Enact #FrontofPack now for public interest, not private profit. #HealthyEatingStrategy @JustinTrudeau @GPTaylorMRD @TBS_Canada

 

#Frontofpack has the potential to make big impact on food products and thus the health of Canadians. @aafc_canada estimates that up to 84,000 products will be required to change their packaging. We need to enact #FrontofPack now in public interest, not private profit.