Canada's Food Guide will now focus on more than just food

Pearl Mccarthy
January 26, 2019

Health Canada says it is working to ensure that the revised Food Guide is inclusive of Indigenous Peoples, reflecting social, cultural and historical context. "Categorizing food as "highly processed" unfairly vilifies food that can be part of a healthy diet and that many Canadians rely upon as a convenient, affordable, safe and nutritious option", Michi Furuya Chang, the group's senior vice-president of public policy and regulatory affairs, said in a news release.

"Processed or prepared foods and beverages that contribute to excess sodium, free sugars or saturated fat undermine healthy eating as they are linked to chronic disease risk when consumed in excess", said Dr. Hasan Hutchinson.

The latest edition of Canada's Food Guide, unveiled Monday, emphasizes a plant-based diet - something that is likely music to the ears of legume producers across the country.

"Dairy is buried into the other sources of nutrients, so for example, it would be under the category of protein and calcium sources", he said.

Earlier this month, the Dairy Farmers of Canada released a statement warning that the new guide could hurt Canadian farmers, especially after recent trade concessions made to the USA during the negotiations of United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

In addition, no fewer than 46 lobbyists registered to lobby government on the food guide and had dozens of meetings with representatives of at least 23 government departments, offices or agencies over the previous year and also met with at least 43 MPs, senators or their senior staffers. "That could mean having vegetarian meals once or twice a week as a family and including more lentils, chickpeas and tofu".

The restaurant industry and some processors have been adjusting to increased demand for plant-based protein for years. Canada's new food guide also stresses that water should be everyone's drink of choice, encouraging people to stay away from sugar-filled soft drinks and juices.

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The new food safety regulations, which Canadian Food Inspection Agency says are consistent with worldwide standards, focus on prevention, along with speedy removal of unsafe food products from the marketplace. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grain foods, generalized proteins instead of meat, and water as the "drink of choice", appear to have replaced the milk-food group, which figured prominently on the old guide's signature rainbow graphic. "How they adapt will be of interest", said Simon Somogyi, a University of Guelph professor studying the business of food.

However, the report outlined that numerous well-studied healthy eating patterns included plant-based proteins.

Asked about Health Canada's warning against deli meats in particular, Mary Ann Binnie, the Canadian Meat Council's nutrition consultant, noted that the advice was to limit consumption, not avoid it entirely.

Hutchinson said Health Canada still recommends lower-fat diary as part of a nutritious diet. Excluding those commissioned by the food industry, Health Canada reviewed scientific reports from the World Health Organization and other agencies since 2006 to come up with its guidelines.

He called the revamped guide an "historic" and positive change. And while children can reject healthy food at home, at school, she said, "when everyone gets it, no one rejects it".

There's no doubt that the new guide is going to completely look like a push for more plant-based diets in country. Among protein foods, consume plant-based more often.

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