I am pleased to participate in Health Canada's landmark announcement on behalf of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.
CSPI has advocated mandatory nutrition labelling for nearly six years with the assistance of the Alliance for Food Label Reform -- a coalition of nonprofit groups representing two million Canadian consumers, scientists, and health professionals.
The new nutrition labels will help Canadians reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes by
- helping consumers select more nutritious foods and
- encouraging manufacturers to improve the nutritional quality of their products.
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada estimates that the new labels will save Canadians more than $5 billion over the next two decades as a result of reduced health-care costs and improved productivity.
Mandatory labelling rules will ensure that nutrition information
- appears on practically all foods,
- is displayed in a format that is easy to read and interpret, and
- discloses amounts of most nutrients that are important to public health.
I do not want to detract from our strong support for these new rules, but I would be remiss if I did not identify areas for future improvement:
- Mandatory nutrition labelling should apply to all fresh meat, poultry and seafood, not just ground and prepared meats.
- Health marketing claims should not be permitted on foods like whole (3.25%) milk or high-fat cheeses -- which, though calcium-rich, are high in saturated fat. These types of foods may decrease the risk of one disease (like osteoporosis), but increase the risk of another (like heart disease).
As the Romanow Commission report stressed --
- all levels of government now need to direct their attention and energies to additional public policy improvements that can enhance public health by promoting improved nutrition and physical activity.
Today's announcement is an excellent first step.