Healthy eating strategy: questions and answers

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Improving healthy eating

Why is Canada's food guide being revised?

Health Canada wants to ensure that dietary guidance continues to be relevant and useful to Canadians.

We have completed a review of the evidence related to dietary guidance, and while the review revealed that the scientific basis of Canada's 2007 food guide is generally consistent with the latest evidence on diet and health, there are topics where Health Canada needs to strengthen our dietary guidance.

We also looked at how Canadians and stakeholders use the guide and found that some have trouble understanding and applying certain aspects of the guidance. The current 'all-in-one' format is not meeting the needs of all audiences.

What will the new Canada's food guide look like?

The new Canada's food guide will look very different from the current six-page format, and will include multiple resources, as opposed to an all-in-one policy and educational resource, including:

  • a dietary guidance policy report
  • updated healthy eating patterns (recommended amounts and types of foods)
  • tools and recommendations for Canadians

These new resources will help support:

  • policy makers and health professionals in implementing dietary guidance in policies, programs and resources
  • Canadians in applying dietary guidance in their everyday lives

When will the new Canada's food guide resources be available?

The revision of Canada's food guide will be completed in phases.

An online dietary guidance policy report, consisting of general healthy eating recommendations is planned for release in mid-2018 along with new visuals, key messages and resources for Canadians.

New healthy eating patterns (types and amounts of foods) are planned for release in mid-2019, along with other tools and resources for Canadians.

Who will be engaged in the revision of Canada's food guide?

During the development of the new guide, officials from the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion will seek expert advice only from, and consult with, academics, health professional associations, health NGOs, and federal, provincial and territorial officials.

We conducted two open consultations with all stakeholders and Canadians to ensure that the new dietary guidance is useful and relevant.

In fall 2016 we asked Stakeholders and Canadians about their needs and expectations for a revised Canada's food guide. A What We Heard Report from this consultation summarizes the almost 20,000 responses that we received. We concluded the second open consultation on August 14, 2017, where we requested stakeholders and interested individuals provide feedback on the proposed general healthy eating recommendations. A What We Heard Report from this second consultation will be available later this year.

Be informed about the revision of Canada's food guide by registering for the Consultation and Stakeholder Information Management System. At the 'areas of interest' page, select 'Canada's food guide / Nutrition' under the Food Safety and Nutrition heading.

Protecting vulnerable populations

What are Health Canada's priorities concerning marketing to children?

Protecting the health of children is a priority for the Government of Canada. Health Canada will introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children to allow us to support families in making better food choices.

The goal is to create an environment supportive of healthy growth and development, where children are protected from the negative influence of marketing.

New regulatory measures to restrict marketing to children will be developed after:

  • a thorough review of the evidence;
  • consultation with experts in the field; and
  • broad public consultation.

A public consultation was held in spring/summer 2017. Input from the consultation will feed into the development of the regulations. There will be further opportunities to provide input in the near future.

An update on Health Canada's proposed direction for the development of regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children was published in April 2018. This update reflects policy development since receiving feedback from the 75-day public consultation, Restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children launched on June 10, 2017. Pending Royal Assent of Bill S-228, the Child Health Protection Act, Health Canada will publish proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette for consultation.

What are the factors to consider when examining the issue of restricting junk-food ads that target children?

Developing a policy to restrict the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children is complicated. A number of policy issues need to be considered including:

  • the right age limit for the restrictions;
  • the definition of 'unhealthy food', for the purposes of the marketing restrictions;
  • the definition of 'child-directed' advertising; and
  • the marketing tactics that should be exempt from restrictions.

Strengthening labelling and claims

Where can I find information on what Health Canada is doing to help Canadians understand how much sugar is in our food?

To learn more about sugars, including food labelling changes, please visit Health Canada's sugars page.

Why did Health Canada not require the declaration of added sugars as part of the new label changes?

Added sugars are ingredients that manufacturers add to their products and that must be declared in the list of ingredients. The Nutrition Facts table declares the amount of nutrients, rather than ingredients. On the Canadian Nutrition Facts table, the amount of added sugars in the food is included in the amount of total sugars, which is consistent with the approach to all other nutrients. Furthermore, laboratory tests cannot distinguish between the naturally-occurring and added sugars.

What additional information is Health Canada proposing to give consumers on sugars?

Health Canada has introduced two new labelling measures to help Canadians understand the sugars content of their food. In addition to the two new measures, Health Canada consulted the public and stakeholders on a new labelling approach on the front of the package that would identify foods high in:

  • sugars,
  • sodium, and/or
  • saturated fat.

This proposed new measure would complement and address some of the limitations of the information in the Nutrition Facts table and list of ingredients. For example, through the use of symbols that are easy to see and understand, consumers could more easily identify foods that are high in sugars, sodium, and saturated fat.

What is front-of-package nutrition labelling

Front-of-package nutrition labelling (FOP) commonly refers to simplified nutrition information that can be easily seen and interpreted by consumers on the front of food packages or shopping aisle shelf tags.

What is Health Canada proposing with respect to front-of-package nutrition labelling?

In fall 2016 Health Canada consulted on a proposed front-of-package nutrition labelling symbol for packaged foods high in:

  • sugars,
  • sodium, and /or
  • saturated fat.

Why is Health Canada proposing front-of-package nutrition labelling?

Chronic diseases are a major public health concern in Canada. A diet high in sugars, sodium and saturated fat is one of the top risk factors for chronic diseases, and Canadians consume too much of these nutrients.

Front-of-package nutrition labelling (FOP) will provide quick and easy interpretation of the levels of sugars, sodium and saturated fat in food products to help Canadians make healthier choices. This is particularly true when time and motivation are limited, and when the information in the Nutrition Facts table can be complex for some people to understand and use.

Improving nutrition quality standards

What are Health Canada's plans to evaluate industry's voluntary efforts in reducing sodium levels in processed foods?

The food industry was asked to meet voluntary sodium reduction targets by December 31, 2016 for 94 categories of processed foods. Health Canada is currently undertaking a full and comprehensive evaluation of industry's voluntary efforts to meet those targets. This information will then be used to assess how Canadian's intake of sodium has changed since 2010. The results from these assessments will be made publicly available between late fall 2017 and early spring 2018.

Will Health Canada introduce regulations to reduce the levels of sodium in processed foods?

Health Canada is currently assessing the progress of the food industry in meeting the voluntary sodium reduction targets and will determine how the sodium intake of Canadians has moved over the past six years. Work is also starting on reducing sodium in foods served in restaurants and foodservice establishments.

In January 2017, a public consultation closed on a mandatory front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labelling symbol for packaged foods high in:

  • sugars,
  • sodium, and /or
  • saturated fat.

Based on this consultation, a regulated front-of-package nutrition symbol could help Canadians identify foods high in the three nutrients of public health concern, and may also encourage industry to reformulate foods to decrease the amount of these three nutrients.

What are Health Canada's plans to address the high levels of sodium in restaurant and foodservice foods?

In fall 2017 Health Canada put out a Call for information on sodium reduction initiatives in the Canadians foodservices sector. The purpose of this call was to hear from the restaurant and foodservice sector (i.e., foodservice operators and distributors, food manufacturers, grocery retailers, chefs) to :

  • understand the various stakeholders' roles, activities, and challenges around sodium reduction
  • identify existing tools that support sodium reduction in restaurants and other foodservices establishments
  • identify research gaps and opportunities for sodium reduction in this sector

What is Health Canada doing to eliminate industrial trans fat from foods?

On September 15, 2017, Health Canada published the Notice of Modification: Prohibiting the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) in Foods (Ref. No. NOM/ADM-C-2017-3) confirming its decision to move forward with implementing a prohibition on the use of PHOs – the primary source of industrially produced trans fats – by adding them to Part 1 of the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods (the List). The prohibition will take effect on September 15, 2018.

Proceeding with prohibiting the use of PHOs in foods will effectively reduce trans fats in the food supply to the lowest level possible. It will also help reduce trans fat intake by Canadians. This, in turn, is expected to help reduce the rate of heart disease in Canada.

Our healthy eating strategy

How can I stay informed about consultations related to the healthy eating strategy?

Be informed about consultations related to the healthy eating strategy by registering for the Consultation and Stakeholder Information Management System. At the 'areas of interest' page, be sure to select 'Canada's food guide / Nutrition' as well as 'Food labelling and Packaging' under the 'Food Safety and Nutrition' heading.

Are there changes to the way Health Canada will consult on healthy eating initiatives?

The Government of Canada is committed to openness and transparency. Health Canada is supporting this commitment by:

  • making more information available to Canadians
  • providing more opportunities to participate in discussions on government policies and priorities.

All other correspondence and all meetings with stakeholders are being published monthly online in list format, including the:

  • organization name
  • date
  • subject
  • purpose of the meeting
  • title of any documents provided during meetings

This includes correspondence and meetings related to healthy eating initiatives in which opinions, information, and requests for information are communicated with the intent to inform the development of:

  • policies
  • guidance
  • regulations

Learn more about Health Canada's approach to openness and transparency.

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