Proposed changes to Canada's food guide sow concern among Alberta beef producers


Bryan Passifiume, Calgary Herald (Canada)

August 9, 2017


Proposed changes to the federal government’s recommendations for a healthy diet has Alberta’s beef producers seeing red.


In its first revamp in a decade, the Canada Food Guide is expected to recommend a drastic reduction of dairy, butter and beef consumption as part of what it recommends as a balanced and nutritional diet.


Health Canada is also considering replacing the guide’s Meats and Alternates category with one encompassing all sources of protein — both animal and plant based.


That’s a concern to Canada Beef spokeswoman Joyce Parslow, who’s concerned these changes negate the importance of a balanced diet.


“We’re concerned that’s not really very helpful for consumers — they buy foods, they don’t buy nutrients,” she said.


“To lump meat, dairy products and plant-based sources of protein all in one, saying they’re rich sources of protein — it’s not even true.”


Concerns are being raised after Health Canada released a series of ‘guiding principles’ earlier in the summer, purportedly advocating a shift from red meat consumption in favour of plant-based protein and foods high in fibre.


The current food guide suggests that Canadians should eat one to three servings of meat and alternatives.


Unlike previous food guide revisions, industry won’t have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Health Canada.


Instead, they have until Monday to submit comments on the guiding principles — the same deadline being offered to the general public.


Food marketing boards such as Canada Beef, Parslow said, aren’t permitted to make the claim their foods are “rich” in any specific nutrient unless certain thresholds are met in terms of daily value percentages.


“And here they are, trying to say that things like peanut butter are equal levels of protein, and the same levels of protein,” she said.


“It’s kind of counter to what they allow as claims, which is a bit strange.”


The guiding principles also advocate replacing dairy foods high in saturated fats, such as cream, high-fat cheese and butter, with those containing unsaturated fat, such as nuts, seeds and avocado.


Parslow said the changes represent misinformation to consumers regarding levels and quality of protein — especially when one considers the amount of nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 available in beef.


That’s a position shared by Alberta Beef Producers spokesman Tom Lynch-Staunton, who said dismissing the role beef plays in a balanced diet will negatively affect the province’s cattle producers — and the health of Albertans.


“It could have serious detrimental effects,” said Lynch-Staunton, who also serves as Issues Manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.


As the Canada Food Guide is taught in schools as nutritional curriculum, he’s especially concerned about the long-term effects.


“One of the problems is that children are especially vulnerable to not getting the right nutrients — especially protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12,” Lynch-Staunton said...