Editorial: Guiding Principles for Canada’s New Food Guide
Recently, I issued a public statement wherein I echoed the concerns of a number of organizations that represent Canada’s meat and dairy sectors regarding the ‘guiding principles and recommendations’ for Canada’s next food guide. In the statement, I expressed my concern about the assertions the guiding principles seem to be making about the consumption of meat and dairy products and I called on the Government to develop evidence-based recommendations in consultation with industry experts to include in the new Canada Food Guide.
The new guiding principles contain a number of recommendations that could have very significant negative impacts on not only the Canadian meat and dairy industries but also on the health of Canadians. Of particular concern are the recommendations surrounding how Canadians should be consuming protein in their diets. The recommendations call for more protein consumption from plant-based products and away from meat and dairy products. The Dairy Farmers of Canada are concerned that this could include the removal of the ‘dairy’ category of the food guide altogether to be lumped together with plant-based foods into one ‘proteins’ category. Recommendations like this ignore the vitally important nutrients (calcium, potassium, etc.) that Canadians obtain through the consumption of dairy and meat products. It is not prudent to simply lump all proteins together and ignore the other significant benefits that come from Canadian dairy and meat products.
Furthermore, officials at Health Canada have taken it upon themselves to make recommendations based on the ‘environmental impacts’ of certain foods. They claim that they promote “Sustainable Diets” which, you guessed it, calls for less consumption of foods produced from meat and dairy farms. Health Canada should be concerned about drafting a food guide that deals with their mandate – the health of Canadians. The environmental impact of farms is a separate issue and should not be thrown in haphazardly with discussions on healthy eating. However, I will add that some of the best stewards of the environment that I have ever met are farmers. There is no other profession that depends more on the environment than farming.
The so-called animal rights lobby has been considering these draft principles a major win. This is a group that is hell-bent on seeing the demise of traditional farming practices and stopping the consumption of meat and dairy altogether. In an article in the Huffington Post, one activist went so far as to say that the new principles are “a huge win for the cows who really don’t want us to kill their babies so we can steal their milk”. This kind of thinking is completely devoid of reality and is not healthy in these discussions. Furthermore, these groups applaud the recommendations of moving toward a more plant-based diet but will be the first to stand up against farmers that seek to maximize crop production through fertilizer and pesticides. Backwards logic at its finest.
The guiding principles seemingly show an explicit bias towards plant-based diets and outright encouragement of Canadians moving away from diets that include meat and dairy products. This
is simply wrong. This Government has promised to make evidence-based policy based on facts and in consultation with experts. If the Government still believes in this promise then it is high time that the Minister of Health meets with representatives across the Canadian meat and dairy sectors, the industry experts, and put forward recommendations for a food guide that is free of bias and encourages healthy eating for all Canadians.
Larry Miller, MP