Concerned about the proposed government regulations that could require dairy products to carry a front-of-package warning label? Let the government know.
Dairy products have long been recognized as an important part of a balanced diet, and the science hasn’t changed. Milk products are associated with bone health and reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. They are also high in nutrients that Canadians aren’t getting enough of, including: vitamins A and D, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium!
Health Canada’s proposed regulations are focused solely on sodium, sugar and saturated fat and will require many dairy products to carry a front-of-package warning label. This oversimplified approach ignores the proven health benefits of eating dairy products, potentially allowing nutrient-poor foods to go unlabeled while requiring nutritious foods like cheese and yogurt to carry one. Focusing on just three nutrients is an oversimplification of what makes a product “healthy” and doesn’t provide Canadians with the information needed to make informed food choices. For regulations intending to help Canadians, the approach is confusing and misleading.
The proposed regulations include exemptions on whole and 2% milk and infant formula. We welcome these exemptions, but believe they need to go much further. Dairy products are proven to provide significant nutritional benefits, contribute to a balanced diet and shouldn’t be required to carry a warning label.
Improving the overall health of Canadians and helping them to make better food choices are important goals. But, will the proposed regulations effectively achieve them? We’re not so sure. We’re concerned that the proposed regulations on front-of-package labelling will:
- Penalise nutritious and wholesome dairy products;
- Encourage Canadians to eat highly processed snack foods instead of dairy products;
- Leave Canadians more confused when it comes to making informed food choices.
While the Canada Gazette consultation on front-of-package labelling is now closed, you still have the opportunity to share your concerns with your Member of Parliament (MP). Remind them dairy is an important part of a balanced diet, and ask them to advocate that Health Canada reconsider the proposed front-of-package regulations which will encourage Canadians to avoid dairy and head to the snack aisle. We’ve provided a letter below to help you.
Letter to my MP on front-of-package labelling
Dear Member of Parliament,
Improving the overall health of Canadians is extremely important to me. I do not, however, support the Government of Canada’s proposal to require products high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat to carry front-of-package labels. I, therefore, ask you to use your voice as a Member of Parliament to ask Health Canada to reconsider its approach on the proposed front-of-package labelling regulations.
The dairy industry is important to me and I believe that dairy products play an important role in supporting the health of Canadians. According to Health Canada’s own 2015 scientific review, milk products are beneficial for bone health, and are associated with a reduced risk of a number of diseases, including: heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Milk products also provide key nutrients which Canadians do not get enough of: Vitamins A and D, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
However, under the proposed regulations, foods (including dairy products) which contain more than 15% of the daily value for sodium, sugar and saturated fat would be forced to carry a front-of-package warning label. This is regardless of whether or not the foods contribute to reducing chronic disease or contain other nutrients that have been identified as under-consumed by Canadians such as those listed above.
As proposed, these regulations could discourage Canadians from eating dairy products which have proven health benefits, but not discourage them from nutrient-poor foods which, contrary to most dairy products, can be more easily reformulated to not carry a label. The proposed front-of-package regulations, as they focus on just three nutrients, is an oversimplification of what makes a product “healthy” and does not provide Canadians with the information needed to make informed food choices.
Illustrating this point, according to a recent Nanos poll, 1/3 of Canadians would simply avoid any product carrying a front-of-package warning label, without seeking further information on the Nutrition Facts table. This runs the risk of encouraging Canadians to choose snack foods over nutritious foods such as dairy products. How does this improve the health of Canadians?
Furthermore, I am concerned by inconsistencies in the proposed regulations. While whole milk and 2% milk have been exempted, many dairy products like cheese and yogurt will have front-of-package labels. This is despite the fact that they are proven to have many of the same nutrients and have an identical protective effect on health. Government regulations must be based on sound evidence.
Front-of-package labels risk confusing Canadians and encouraging them to eat products that provide much fewer nutritional health benefits (or worse, have detrimental effects) than dairy products. As a Member of Parliament, I ask that you voice the concerns of your constituents and demand that Health Canada rethink its approach to improving the health of Canadians.