What's New -- CSPI Press Releases

June 10, 1997

Contact: : Bill Bryant at 202/332-9110, Ext. 370

Health and Consumer Leaders

Call for Nutrition Information on All Food Labels

Complete nutrition information on all food labels is a public health necessity, health professionals and consumer organizations told Health Canada today.

"Nutrition labelling is an essential weapon in Canada's battle against diet-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, dental caries, and diabetes," said Monique Julien, professor of nutrition at the University of Montreal. "The lack of nutrition information makes it difficult for consumers to follow the advice to limit their consumption of fat, sugar, and sodium."

At a press conference today in Ottawa, nutritionists and consumer leaders released a 23-page report entitled Nutrition Labelling: A Call for Reform. (Click here for the Exective Summary) The report recommends that nutrition information be:

The report was written by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and endorsed by FoodShare Metro Toronto, Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, the Council of Canadians, National Federation of Consumers' Associations of Quebec, and the Toronto Food Policy Council. More than 100 nutrition professors, physicians, and other health professionals from British Columbia to Nova Scotia also endorsed the report.

"Nutrition labelling is one of the most important steps the government could take to help people reduce their risk of cardiovascular and other diet-related diseases," Robert Cushman, MD, Medical Officer of Health for Ottawa-Carlton, said.

"It is one thing to encourage people to eat healthier food -- it is another to give them the tools they need to do so. We hope that Health Canada will ensure complete nutrition information on all food labels," said Debbie Field, director of FoodShare Metro Toronto, an organization devoted to promoting healthy diets. "Labelling is particularly important to those struggling to spend their food dollars in the healthiest way possible."

"Although some foods have nutrition information on the label, that information is often incomplete or based on unrealistic serving sizes that make products seem more healthful than they really are," said Marsha Rosen, a CSPI dietitian based in Toronto.

For example:

"Canadians have a fundamental right to know what they are consuming," said Council of Canadians executive director Peter Bleyer. "It's time Canadian labelling regulations were made relevant for the 21st Century."

According to industry-sponsored surveys, 79% of Canadians believe that nutrition information is important, but only 34% believe that the information currently provided on labels is sufficient.

A May, 1997, survey conducted by Canadian Facts for CSPI found that 95% of Canadians interviewed said that nutrition is "very important" or "somewhat important" when shopping for food, and 87% of shoppers said that nutrition information on all packaged foods would be "very useful" or "somewhat useful." The telephone survey of 855 Canadians has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

"The provision of nutrition information on practically all food labels in the United States has dramatically changed how companies sell and how consumers buy processed foods," said Leila Farzan, a CSPI attorney who authored the labelling report. "I hope that Health Canada will improve upon the American scheme and provide Canadian consumers with an even more useful label."

Since nutrition labelling was required in the U.S. in 1994, more than 4,000 new low- and reduced-fat foods have been introduced. Moreover, surveys consistently show that more than half of all consumers refer to the nutrition label the first time they buy a food and about one-third have stopped buying at least one product because of the information listed on the label.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest is a non-profit consumer organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with additional staff in Toronto. CSPI is supported largely by the 900,000 subscribers, including 75,000 Canadians, to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI led the drive for a law that requires nutrition information on almost all food labels in the U.S. and sets standards for health and nutrition claims on labels.

[CSPI Canada] [CSPI U.S.] [Reports Canada] [News Releases Canada]