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Industries concerned about Health Canada’s changes to the food guide
Health Canada has released details of a proposal to change Canada’s food guide and they are causing concern in some areas of the food industry.
The new guide, expected to be released next year after the first update in 10 years, is mainly aimed at providing Canadians with details on how to follow a nutritious and balanced diet.
Among the first changes Health Canada proposed is a move away from red meats as a source of protein, opting instead for legumes and cutting down on saturated fats.
Canadian beef and dairy producers are concerned that the proposal will send the wrong message and could end up lumping all protein, including dairy products, into one food group.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says the recommendation should be aimed at promoting leaner cuts of meat rather than less red meat altogether.
Milk producers say the elimination of the milk and alternative products category from the food guide would send a message that all proteins are the same and not take into account that milk products contain nutrients vital to human health, such as calcium and potassium that other protein-rich foods don't.
“We’re really concerned we’re just being grouped with protein,” said Mike Southwood with Alberta Milk. “Dairy is much more important than just protein, especially in children.”
"It would be a disservice to the Canadian population and frankly, a recipe for disaster in terms of bone health," Isabelle Neiderer, director of nutrition and research with Dairy Farmers of Canada, said.
Jessica Beggs, a registered dietitian, says the food guide needed to be updated, but doesn’t want people to cut out any of the old food groups that were part of the guide when it was first published in 1942.
“It’s going to be a little controversial perhaps because it could impact those two industries, the meat and the dairy, but it’s not changing a lot of the things we’ve already said. It may not make big changes but it may make people more interested in other sources of protein.”
Ottawa says the changes aren’t meant to completely shut out certain foods from the Canadian diet.
“We’re not talking about that it has to be no animal foods; we’re talking about a shift in the amount of animal foods you’ve got in there,” said Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director general of Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
Unlike previous revisions of the food guide, industry doesn't have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Health Canada and instead must submit their comments on the guiding principles along with the rest of the general public by Monday, Hutchinson said.
"We have to ensure the development of the guidance is really free from any conflict of interest."
(With files from Jaclyn Brown and the Canadian Press)