The labels aren’t meant to convey a warning, a spokesperson said
By Diego Flammini
Canada’s health ministry has provided some explanation around its plans to move forward with front-of-package (FOP) labels on some single-ingredient foods like ground beef and pork indicating high levels of saturated fat.
Foods deemed high in sodium and sugars would also be subject to this labeling.
Multiple industry organizations, Alberta’s provincial government and the federal Conservatives have expressed concern over this move, saying it hurts farmers and could become a trade irritant with other countries.
The labels are part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, a group of initiatives launched in October 2016 designed to help Canadians make better choices.
They’re not meant to steer shoppers away from products, Health Canada said.
“The intent is not to convey a warning, rather it aims to help reduce risks to health by providing consumers with quick and easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat,” the ministry told Farms.com in an emailed statement.
“The FOP nutrition symbol will complement existing initiatives, such as the revised Nutrition Facts table and Canada’s Food Guide. These labels are widely recognized by health organizations as an effective tool to help counteract rising rates of diet-related chronic disease in Canada.”
Another area of concern for the Canadian ag industry is how ground beef and pork are being treated compared to other single-ingredient products.
Foods like fruit, vegetables and milk are exempt from FOP labels.
Health Canada only provides exemptions in certain circumstances, ministry said.
Exemptions occur when:
- the food is already exempt from displaying a nutrition facts table. Examples include: raw whole cuts of meat and foods sold at farmers' markets,
- there is evidence that the food provides a protective effect on health. Examples include fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat, sugars, or sodium; whole and 2% milk; and most vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil.
Beef and other red meats are high in vitamin B12, iron, and help promote muscle health and heart health.
Health Canada also provides exemptions when the information in the symbol would be redundant.
Examples include sweetening agents such as table sugar, honey and maple syrup, as well as table and flavoured salts (e.g. garlic salt, onion salt).
Farms.com has contacted Health Canada for comment on if ground beef, pork and other single-ingredient items can receive exemptions if evidence proves these foods provide health benefits.