Canada’s Food Guide is celebrating its 70th birthday this year! This document was originally created during the Great Depression, its purpose was to address the issue of malnutrition.1 In modern times, Canada’s Food Guide’s purpose is to “guide food selection and promote the nutritional health of Canadians.”2 It should be noted here that according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, a government body, that “approximately one in four Canadian adults are obese, according to measured height and weight data from 2007-2009. Of children and youth aged six to 17, 8.6% are obese.”3
The four categories of Canada’s Food Guide include:
- Vegetables and Fruit
- Grain Products
- Milk and Alternatives
- Meat and Alternatives
I’m not going to bash the Food Guide itself. I actually think it has made some great progress in the last iteration such as the introduction of quinoa, leafy greens and kefir. That’s pretty great. It’s the corporate side that concerns me.
Health Canada works with three advisory groups, including the Food Advisory Committee in revising the food guide. According to Health Canada, the Food Guide Advisory Committee “was an integral part of the revision of Canada’s Food Guide. Twelve individuals were chosen for the varied perspectives they would bring from public health, health policy, nutrition education, disease prevention, industry and communication. Collectively, they represented national, provincial and local perspectives. The Food Guide revision benefited from their skills and knowledge.”4
Always the inquisitive mind, I decided to look up some of the members of this advisory committee and their backgrounds…
- Paul Paquin, Chair of the advisory currently holds the position of Vice-President of the International Dairy Federation – Canada section (Milk being its own food group)
- Dr. Mansel W. Griffiths on the Expert Scientific Advisory Committee for Dairy Farmers of Canada and was recently appointed to the newly established Maple Leaf Foods Advisory Council (Maple Leaf Foods, makers of cold cuts and deli meat, hot dogs, canned meat and responsible for the 2008 listeriosis outbreak)
- Phillip Schwab serves as a director of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board on behalf of BIOTECanada, which I learned is a biotechnological industry that creates vaccines and drugs, genetic modifications of agriculture and provides products for environmental contamination and clean-up (perhaps caused by the GMO products and drug residue in our urine?)
And to make this non-bias, I was impressed to see these members listed:
- Herb Barbolet, an Associate with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development
- Carl Carter, Director of Regulatory Affairs with the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA)
In an interview with the CBC, Mary Bush, a retired head of nutrition policy at Health Canada stated, “What the food guide does, is lay out a pattern of eating based on the best evidence we have about what matters for health in terms of adequate nutrients, as well as trying to limit excess to prevent chronic disease. We have major problems with weight in this country, today’s Food Guide is really quite different in its focus [than that of the foods guides of the 1940s]. But the same principles underlie it: this is a pattern of eating; if you follow it you can be assured of having the best that science can provide today.”5
There seems to be a disconnect. The very document that is suppose to champion the health of our nation seems to have fallen to the wayside if 25% of Canadians are obese and if players of some of Canada’s biggest corporation sit on the advisory panel.
How can we fix this? It’s amazing that Public Health Agency of Canada has a strategy in place to assist Canadians and their family who are obese, it is my personal opinion that change needs to start at the top; no more corporate conflicting interests and a non-bias food guide to support the people of this country, not just those with corporate influence.
Do you follow Canada’s Food Guide (or a government issued food guide in your country)? What do you think about the relationship between the government and business corporations with respect to the food guide?
1. Schwartz, Daniel. The politics of food guides. CBC News. Web. 30 Jul 12. 4 Aug 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/07/27/f-food-guide-70.html
2. Canada’s Food Guide http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/context/hist-eng.php
3. Public Health Agency of Canada, Obesity in Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/oic-oac/index-eng.php
4. Canada’s Food Guide, The Revision Process http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/context/rev_proc-eng.php
5. Schwartz, Daniel. The politics of food guides. CBC News. Web. 30 Jul 12. 4 Aug 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/07/27/f-food-guide-70.html