OTTAWA (September 29, 1999) There is considerable support for mandatory nutrition labelling by a surprising number of food companies and trade associations according to an analysis by the non-profit Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
CSPI analysed public comments received by Health Canada as part of a consultation the government is holding on the subject. Nearly half of the 46 comments submitted by food industry respondents that addressed the issue stated they would support, or not object to, a mandatory nutrition labelling system. Those comments came from such large companies as Nestle, Lipton, Schneider, and Kellogg.
Nutrition labelling on all foods is an essential public health tool to help consumers improve their diets and reduce their risks of heart disease, certain forms of cancer and other diseases, said Bill Jeffery, L.LB., CSPI Public Policy Analyst.
Nearly all submissions from 130 non-profit health and consumer groups advocated a mandatory nutrition labelling system. CSPIs 17 member Alliance for Food Label Reform, a coalition of consumer and health groups representing 2 million Canadians, urged Health Canada to require comprehensive, easy-to-read nutrition labels on all foods.
Health Canada records show that an impressive array of national health organizations agreed that nutrition labelling should be mandatory, including, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Dietitians of Canada, the Canadian Home Economics Association, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and the Canadian Nurses Association. A half dozen provincial and large municipal government health departments also submitted comments supporting mandatory labelling.
We were gratified to see growing support among all stakeholders for mandatory nutrition labelling requirements. Parliament should now direct Health Canada to quickly complete its consultation and institute a mandatory labelling requirement in light of the growing support among food companies, health advocates, and consumers alike, Jeffery said.
Presently, nutrition labelling is voluntary. Only about half of all food labels provide nutrition information and, even those that do, often misleadingly disclose only amounts of particular nutrients that manufacturers want to promote. Under current rules for instance, the label of Campbells V-8 Vegetable Cocktail can boast about vitamin content without disclosing that a serving has 730 mg of sodium. In contrast, V-8 juice sold in the U.S. provides full nutrition information, including the fact that a serving provides about 25% of the maximum amount of sodium one should consume per day.
CSPI urges consumers to ask their Member of Parliament and Minister of Health Allan Rock to support Bill C-455, An Act to Amend the Food and Drugs Act (nutrition information on foods) when Parliament resumes sitting this fall. Letters to Minister Rock can be addressed to: Room 441-S, Centre Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A-0A6.