Record of Proceedings

Nutrition Science Advisory Committee (NSAC)

Inaugural virtual meeting

November 18th 2020, 1:30-4:00 pm Eastern time

Summary of Proceedings
Agenda item Summary
Welcome and introductions

The Health Products and Food Branch (HPFB) Assistant Deputy Minister welcomed participants to the meeting, thanked members for their commitment and membership, and outlined the goals and plan for the Committee.

The meeting had three objectives:

  • To familiarize members to the mandate of the Committee;
  • To formalize the governance of the Committee, including adoption of the Terms of Reference; and
  • To provide an overview of Health Canada's mandate and priorities related to nutrition, and discuss potential topics to explore at future meetings.
Roundtable and introductions

The Committee Co-Chairs led introductions and invited each member to share a few words with the Committee about their professional work experience and scientific research expertise.

All members verbally stated any updates to their affiliations and interests and there were no changes.

Terms of reference / Mandate of the Committee
For approval

The Executive Secretary of the Committee, the Director General of the Policy Planning and International Affairs Directorate (PPIAD), provided an overview of the terms of reference and mandate of the Committee. This included an overview of member obligations, security considerations, and requirements to provide updated declarations and affiliations.

Members formally adopted the Terms of Reference.

Presentation: Overview of Health Canada's mandate and priorities related to nutrition, and areas for exploration
For information

The Director General of the Food Directorate and the Director General of the Office of the Nutrition Policy and Promotion presented Health Canada's mandate and priorities related to nutrition, and areas for exploration to the NSAC. The presentation included four sections:

  • Health Canada's role in nutrition:
    • Providing public health nutrition leadership
    • Establishing policies, standards and regulations related to nutritional quality food and public health nutrition
    • Defining, promoting and implementing evidence-based nutrition policies, including dietary guidance
  • Current nutrition priorities
    • Many factors influence our nutrition priorities, including Health Canada's role in nutrition, Government priorities (e.g. Mandate Commitments) and drivers (evolving food environment, diet-related chronic diseases, science and technology innovation, societal shifts and consumer trends and domestic and global context). The COVID-19 pandemic influences all of these drivers and exposes the vulnerabilities in our societies.
    • The Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to improve the food environment to make it easier for Canadians to make the healthier choice, remains a priority for Health Canada, including:
    • Improving nutritional quality of food: Health Canada prohibited industrial-produced trans fat and is monitoring industry's progress on reduction targets and sodium intake of Canadians
    • Protecting vulnerable populations, including continuing work to introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of food and beverages to children
    • Providing better nutrition information: Health Canada launched a new Canada's Food Guide in 2019, improved nutrition information on food labels, and developed a front-of-package labelling proposal
    • Health Canada is modernizing food regulations in the four following areas:
      • Modernize food regulations in response to emerging science and innovation
      • Develop clear regulations for products used by vulnerable populations
      • Improve access to safe and innovative food products
      • Enhance the predictability of the existing regulation programs
  • How Health Canada uses science to inform our work.
    • Science underpins our work.
    • In developing nutrition policy and regulation, Health Canada relies of four pillars:
      1. A strong evidence base: We consider the totality of evidence – all currently available evidence – by applying systematic processes; we gather the best available evidence from a variety of sources, including survey data, collaborating with others and in-house research.
      2. Consultation and outreach: We regularly engage our partners and stakeholders using multiple platforms, and engage and collaborate with the scientific community which contributes to our strong evidence base.
      3. Monitoring and evaluation: We monitor the nutrition situation in Canada – what people are eating, their nutritional status, and their determinants -- to inform and assess the impact of our policies and regulations.
      4. Openness and transparency: Health Canada is committed to being open and transparent.
  • Potential future topics for the NSAC:
    • Best practices in assessing and evaluating scientific evidence to inform public health nutrition policy
    • Monitoring new and emerging trends impacting the nutritional health of Canadians

An interactive discussion followed the presentation between presenters and Committee members about Health Canada's use of science to support its nutrition mandate. Committee members commented on appraising evidence for individuals versus populations (including Indigenous), potential short-term versus long-term Covid-19 implications, diet-related chronic disease trends and food insecurity in Canada, and alignment with international food regulators.

Open discussion on ideas for potential topics for future meetings
For discussion

Input from the NSAC was sought on possible future agenda topics.

The Committee had an open discussion on several nutrition-related issues, for example, methods to assess and synthesize evidence across different domains in nutrition, common methodology for collecting data across studies, approaches to gather evidence relevant to Canada's diverse population, as well as emerging considerations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The topics discussed will be considered in the context of Health Canada's mandate and nutrition priorities. Further discussions will take place to determine a forward agenda for the Committee.

Closing remarks The Committee's Executive Secretary and the Co-Chairs thanked members for their active participation.

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