Health Canada seeks public input on labels for products high in fat, salt or sugar
Health Canada is asking for the public's feedback on a warning label it plans to put on foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat.
The government department's food policy liaison officer for B.C. said the proposed front-of-package labels will “provide Canadians a quick and easy visual symbol to be able to compare food products in certain food categories” in a bid to curb cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses in the country.
"Health Canada is concerned about the increasing rate of chronic disease in Canada and what we know is that poor diet is a significant contributor to chronic disease," Yasmin Yorish told CTV News. "Specifically, nutrients of public health concern—sugar, saturated fat and sodium—have shown an increased risk of chronic disease."
Health Canada is asking Canadians to take an online survey about which of the four proposed labels they'd find more useful and why.
Despite some differences in appearance, the labels all provide the same information about the product's elevated fat, salt or sugar content.
Participants have until April 26 to take the survey.
The soon-to-be mandatory labels stem from the Healthy Eating Strategy, a government initiative aimed at making it easier for Canadians to eat healthy food.
In February, Health Canada recommended a series of changes to food labelling rules in the country.
"While existing forms of nutrition information…are helpful to consumers, further measures are needed to provide clear and consistent front-of-package information and updated nutrient content claims to help protect Canadians from the risks of chronic diseases related to excess consumption of foods high in these nutrients," the report said.
According to Health Canada, a food item has to have more than 15 per cent of the daily recommended value of at least one of these harmful nutrients to qualify for a label.
In addition to consumers, Yorish said her department wants to hear from health professionals, other levels of government, academics and producers who she hopes will carefully consider what they're putting into their foods once they’re faced with a labelling system that could harm the shelf appeal of their products.
"We are confident that food manufacturers will take this as an opportunity to offer foods that are lower in sodium, saturated fat and sugar so as not to trigger front-of-package nutrition symbol on the front of their products," she said.
In a statement, the department said the need for these labels is "based on solid evidence" from other places around the world.
"For example, we have evidence from Chile, where a similar initiative has been implemented, that more than 90 per cent of consumers have made changes to their food purchases as a result of the presence of a ‘high in’ front-of-package symbol," Health Canada said in a statement.
The department also wants to change labelling to address the fact that about 20 per cent of Canadians are at risk of a vitamin D inadequacy and eight per cent are at risk of deficiency.
Feedback about these recommendations can be sent by mail or email to LRM_MLR_consultations@hc-sc.gc.ca.
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko