Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Why industry shouldn’t have special input into the food guide

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With the recent public consultation on the new Canadian “food guide” just coming to an end I’ve been noticing a lot of push-back from industry. There was a letter from a MP voicing concern about the new food guide as the new guiding principles seem to be steering people away from animal-based sources of protein and encouraging the consumption of more plant-based proteins. “I am concerned that the guiding principles released by Health Canada for Canada’s new food guide may have significant negative impacts on Canada’s meat and dairy sectors, and also the health of Canadians,” said Miller.

There was also a news clip featuring a spokesman from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association voicing “concern” that Canadians will be nutrient deficient if they replace meat with chickpeas.

There’s been an entire website set-up by Canadian Dairy Farmers entitled “Keep Canadians Healthy” with the message being that people need to drink more (cow’s) milk and that the new food guide is going to “discourage Canadians from consuming dairy and meat products”. They go on to say that, “Left unchecked, Health Canada’s recommendations will not only cripple an important Canadian industry, but have long-term health consequences for all Canadians.” 

These examples are exactly why so many of us dietitians, doctors, and others have been complaining about the direct involvement of industry in developing previous iterations of the food guide. I can understand why those whose livelihood depends on the sale of dairy and beef would be concerned that the new food guide will (likely) not continue to serve as free advertising of their products. Although nobody really pays the food guide much heed anyway when they’re deciding what to put in their mouths.

The purpose of the food guide is to help Canadians to eat healthy. The food guide should be based on the best possible evidence. If you think that the dairy and beef (or any other food industry for that matter) has your health at heart you are sorely mistaken. Their goal is to make more money by selling more product.

As a dietitian, it’s my professional goal to help people to eat better. I don’t have any products to sell. I consume dairy products and meat (although I don’t consume much meat). I’m not trying to destroy the beef or dairy industries. I can honestly tell you that most Canadians would benefit from consuming less meat and that it’s not necessary to drink milk to meet specific nutrient needs. Most of us could stand to consume more plants and more plant sources of protein. It’s highly unlikely that anyone in Canada is going to suffer from nutrient deficiencies because Health Canada finally grew a backbone and stopped allowing industries to shape the food guide. Also, the food guide is not going to be telling people to become vegan or vegetarian, it’s hopefully (and rightfully) going to encourage people to consume less meat and more plants.

No food guide is ever going to be perfect. It’s never going to satisfy everyone and I’m sure that I’ll find something wrong with it when it’s released. However, as I’ve said before, it’s a guide, not a bible. It’s a tool to help people to make healthier choices. By using current evidence to inform the content, we’re already a step closer to a better tool.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

3 thoughts on “Why industry shouldn’t have special input into the food guide

  1. Reblogged this on In Your Face Nutrition and commented:
    No sense in recreating the wheel so I’ll just leave this for everyone to read what my colleague and friend, Registered Dietitian Diana Chard has to say about food industry influence and the food guide. Her blog is over at http://www.bitemywords.com and I am a big fan of her work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been thinking about commenting on this post for weeks now, since you posted it. I had concerns initially about the weight of public opinion in the new Food Guide recommendations. I felt popular trends and what society thinks is healthy has no place in the process, which should be directed by health scientists and dieticians. If it’s open to all, then all should submit input though and farmers were just as motivated to protect their interests as other groups. I didn’t participate in the forums myself, so I only have opinions from others who did and found them to be very anti-animal agriculture and skewed heavily towards a vegan diet. In fact, when I completed the survey myself I didn’t find the recommendations to be that outlandish or that discriminatory towards red meat or dairy. I felt they were relatively balanced, but again, I didn’t participate in the forums or do a lot of reading into the recommendations. What this process has made me realize, is how influenced the food guide has actually been in the past. We might not like it, but if this process, even though it’s not perfect, has been guided mostly by science, that’s ultimately what I want to see.

    Liked by 1 person

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