by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Canada

Jul 6 2022

Canada’s new front-of-pack food label

Canada has joined the ranks of countries with front-of-package food labels alerting customers to products high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat.

I learned about this in a press release from Kate Comeau, Communications Advisor, Mission, Canada | Heart & Stroke

The official announcement from Health Canada is here. 

It comes with an explanatory Infographic.

I think the warning labels used in some Latin American countries work better, but this is a big step forward and is likely to cover the great majority of ultra-processed foods—and those are the ones that are best avoided.

Congratulations to Canadians who pushed for this.  Progress!

Jan 23 2019

Canada’s new food guide: a better version of MyPlate?

Here’s Canada’s new food guide:

Doesn’t this look a lot like the USDA’s MyPlate?

Actually, the Canadian guide is better.  Even though it retains the annoying “Protein” section (we don’t eat protein; we eat foods containing protein and lots of other nutrients), it drops the dairy requirement.  Even better, it comes with mostly useful suggestions: [my comments]:

  • Be mindful of your eating habits
  • Cook more often
  • Enjoy your food [Yes!]
  • Eat meals with others
  • Use food labels
  • Limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat [alas, the usual switch from foods to nutrients when talking about eating less]
  • Be aware of food marketing [yes, but lots more on this please]

I can see why this has been greeted with some enthusiasm and less criticism than usual:

The documents


Sep 5 2018

Trump’s NAFTA deal with Mexico: What about Canada?

The basic agreement does not say much about agriculture, but the Trade Representative has produced a separate fact sheet for agriculture.

The White House says:

The agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology to keep up with 21st Century innovations. And we mutually pledge to work together with Mexico to reduce trade-distorting policies, increase transparency, and ensure non-discriminatory treatment in grading of agricultural products.  This is nothing short of a great victory for farmers and ranchers because…Mexico has historically been a great customer and partner.

And then comes the kicker:

We now hope that Canada will see the need to settle all of the outstanding issues between our two nations as well, and restore us to a true North American Free Trade Agreement.

According to Politico,

Trump warned that efforts to revamp the 24-year-old pact could result in two different agreements, and threatened Canada with tariffs on automobiles if Ottawa didn’t agree to negotiate “fairly.”

Mexico’s president must be worried about Canada.  In a phone call with Trump, he said:

It is our wish, Mr. President, that now Canada will also be able to be incorporated in all this.  And I assume that they going to carry out negotiations of the sensitive bilateral issues between Mexico — rather, between Canada and the United States.

According to the New York TimesCanada is scrambling to get in on the deal.  Why?  Three-quarters of its exports go to the U.S., and automobile supply chains are at issue.

Also according to the New York Times, Congress calmed things down a bit and the White House is giving Canada more time to figure out how to handle all this.

According to Vox, here’s how that happened.

Trump argues that NAFTA has been bad for the United States.  That is unlikely.  It’s been much worse for Mexico (see, for example, Alyshia Gálvez’s Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico, out next month).

Thanks to The Hagstrom Report for providing these documents:

Mar 21 2018

Canada’s food guide: proposed revisions

Canada’s food guide has been around since 2007.


Bill Jeffery, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Health Science and Law (which publishes the Food for Life Report) has produced an annotated version of the food guide with proposals for fixing its major problems.

Critics viewed it as far too industry-friendly.

Here’s a graphic summary of the proposed revisions.

This is a great opportunity for Canada to produce a food guide that really does promote health.

Fingers crossed.

Jan 24 2018

Food Politics Canada: A Roundup

I’ve been hearing a lot about Canadian food politics lately—lots is going on up there, apparently.

I.  Health Canada is working on guiding principles for healthy diets—dietary guidelines–and is conducting an online consultation for feedback.  The proposed principles:

  • A variety of nutritious foods and beverages are the foundation for healthy eating.
  • Processed or prepared foods and beverages high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat undermine healthy eating.
  • Knowledge and skills are needed to navigate the complex food environment and support healthy eating.
  • Guidelines should consider determinants of health, cultural diversity, and the food environment.

I hope these get a lot of support.

II.  Sodium reduction in processed foods.  Health Canada has just announced the results of its study of how well voluntary sodium reduction is working.  The evaluation results are disappointing, and much more needs to be done.  Mandatory reduction, anyone?   Figure 1. Results of 2017 Evaluation of Sodium Reduction in Processed Foods. Text description follows.

III.  Front-of-package labels.  Dr. Yoni Freedhoff writes that the Canadian food industry does not like what Health Canada is proposing to do about front-of-package labels.

Health organizations want something like this:

The food industry, no surprise, prefers this:

For more about this dispute, see this article from The Globe & Mail.

IV.  Farm-to-school grants. Yoni Freedhoff also writes that Farm-to-Cafeteria Canada is offering $10,000 grants to Canadian Schools to set up such programs.  Details here.

Dec 13 2017

Canadians eat a lot of highly processed foods

The Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation has released a report on consumption of processed food consumption in Canada.

The report is based on the NOVA (not an acronym) system for classifying foods by their level of processing: unprocessed or minimally processed, processed ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods.  The last category is the one that matters; consumption of ultra-processed foods is highly correlated with obesity.

The report found:

  • Canadians consume nearly half their calories as ultra-processed foods.
  • This is true among all socioeconomic groups, except for immigrants.
  • Children aged 9-13 consume the most ultra-processed food (57% of calories)
  • The most frequently consumed ultra-processed products are pizza, burgers, sandwiches and frozen dishes, followed by packaged breads and sweetened drinks.

Lots of room for improvement here.

Nov 1 2017

It’s NAFTA again: an update

I haven’t said anything about NAFTA since August, but events are moving so quickly in the Trump administration’s attempts to undo this trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that I’m having a hard time keeping up (Politico Morning Agriculture helps).

Also fortunately for anyone interested in this issue, the Haynes and Boone law firm has created the “NAFTA Renegotiation Monitor.”  This tracks the countries’ positions on more than 30 issues under debate. I’m particularly interested in agricultural and phytosanitary (translation: food safety) issues, but this is a great place to find out about any any of them.  This Monitor makes clear what is at stake:

According to Politico,

Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 23-year-old agreement altogether. That would usher in the new isolationist era that he has long threatened, potentially endangering tens of thousands of American jobs that depend on cross-border agreements for everything from manufacturing automobiles to the export of beef… officials made clear they were at an impasse on a number of changes specifically sought by the Trump administration that dovetail with its “America First” agenda. As a result, Canada, Mexico and the United States have agreed to delay their next round of talks by nearly a month 

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and similar groups in Mexico and Canada issued a joint statement calling on their governments to make sure that whatever gets done to NAFTA does not hurt agriculture.

Politico reports that 86 food and agricultural industry groups say that if the Trump administration really does ask Congress to withdraw from NAFTA to pressure Canada and Mexico into meeting U.S. demands (as it has threatened to do, then it risks causing substantial harm to the U.S. economy: “Contracts would be canceled, sales would be lost, able competitors would rush to seize our export markets, and litigation would abound, even before withdrawal would take effect.”

Furthermore, a NAFTA withdrawal would affect specific agriculture sectors.  These effects are outlined in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross signed by numerous agriculture organizations.

  • Poultry: In 2016, U.S. poultry exports were 7.95 billion pounds, over 16 percent of total production. Canada was the second-largest market for the chicken industry and in the top five for turkey. Almost 70 percent of U.S. exports of turkey go to Mexico.
  • High-fructose corn syrup: U.S. exports to Mexico would decrease by $500 million per year.
  • Fruits and veggies: Canada and Mexico account for 18 percent of U.S. fresh fruit exports and 60 percent of U.S. fresh vegetable exports. Since 1993, fruit and vegetable exports from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada have more than tripled, totaling $7.2 billion.
  • Beef: In 2016, U.S. beef exports to Mexico and Canada exceeded $1.7 billion and accounted for 27 percent of total U.S. beef exports.
  • Dairy: Over $1 billion a year in U.S. dairy products are shipped to Mexico.

In other words, food and agriculture groups view NAFTA as good for US agriculture.  They do not view it as so broken that it needs fixing.

Sep 21 2017

Food Politics: Canada

I don’t write much about  Canadian food politics, but every now and then collect interesting items.

Bakery & Snacks interviewed the author:

BAS: Who do you really admire in the book?

Janis Thiessen: As a company, I admire Hawkins Cheezies for their rejection of capitalist imperatives like growth and expansion. As an individual, I admire Covered Bridge fryer operator Thomas Broad, who has overcome personal adversity and has pride and autonomy in his work.