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Health Minister Jane Philpott announces new food labelling, marketing regulations

Canada to follow World Health Organization recommendations released in 2010

The federal government is overhauling Canada’s healthy eating guidelines with a sweeping strategy that will include new rules for marketing and labelling certain foods aimed at children.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said the “iconic” Canada Food Guide has not kept up with the country’s changing demographics and lifestyles.

“The classic one-size-fits-all guide no longer meets the needs of Canadians,” she said in a Montreal speech.

Philpott said the guide must be “relevant and practical” and provide advice for Canadians whether they are shopping at the grocery store or looking at a restaurant menu. It must be individualized and adaptable for food preferences and sensitivities, she said.

Another change will eventually require labelling on the front of packages that will highlight if a product is high or low in certain nutrients such as sodium, sugar and saturated fats.

Protect children from marketing

In May 2010, the World Health Organization released recommendations on the marketing of food and beverages to children. It called on governments worldwide to reduce the exposure of children to advertising and to reduce the use of powerful marketing techniques employed by the manufacturers of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fat acids, free added sugars or sodium.

nutrition-facts-label
New regulations will eventually require front-of-package labelling,
which will highlight if a product is high or low in certain nutrients
such as sodium, sugar and saturated fats. (Kelly Crowe/CBC)

Today, Canada is acting on those recommendations, following the lead of Quebec, which already restricts marketing to children under the age of 13.

It will take anywhere from five to 10 years to implement the changes, after consultations with industry, stakeholders and the public.

The last food guide was criticized because it was based on much input from industry. Philpott said stakeholders will have a say in the process, but they will not dictate the results.

“I think it’s only fair for the people who are selling food to be able to have opportunity to comment in terms of what the impact might be on them,” she said.
“But they will not have impact on the advice given in the guide.”

All meetings and correspondence between stakeholders and officials in her office will be transparent and made public, she said.

Conservative Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, who chaired a committee that carried out a sweeping study on obesity in Canada, welcomed the initiatives as “very encouraging.”  He called the plan to ensure the food industry remains at arm’s length in the decision process “most heart-warming.”

“It’s a total conflict of interest,” he told CBC News. “You simply can’t have the people who make the greatest degree of money selling you any product, making a final recommendation to government as to how healthy that product is.”

Informed food choices

A group representing the sector said the industry is already taking steps to encourage Canadians to make more informed, healthy food choices, and said it is “keen” to ensure further steps are taken

“That said, this is an unprecedented amount of change that will require an unprecedented level of investment in an unprecedented time frame,” said Joslyn Higginson, vice-president of public and regulatory affairs for the Food and Consumer Products of Canada, in a statement.

“This will change what’s in our products, what’s on our product packaging and how those products are marketed.”

The food and beverage industry continues to face challenges with timely regulatory approvals and costs for reformulation and innovation. Outdated regulations mean it takes longer to bring new and reformulated products to market in Canada than in other countries.

“Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency must address lagging regulatory modernization quickly — before imposing new regulations,” she said.
“It’s the only way that food and beverage makers will be able to implement this scale and magnitude of change, and hope to remain competitive, much less grow and innovate.”

Food guide consultation continues

Health Canada just completed a scientific review of the Canada Food Guide. It found that most of the science behind its recommendations was sound.

However the department found there were not enough distinctions between age groups, sex, activity levels, or height.

Consultations will wrap up Dec. 8, 2016. The guide was last updated in 2007, but it remains the most requested document at Health Canada.

Philpott said the Healthy Canada strategy has three pillars:

  • Healthy eating, including the updated food guide and new labelling and marketing rules.
  • Healthy living, including promotion of physical activity and fitness and new rules to deter smoking and vaping.
  • Healthy minds, including new initiatives to improve mental health.

Elimination of trans fats to continue

The federal government asked industry to voluntarily eliminate trans fats in processed foods in 2007. No regulations were ever introduced by the previous Conservative government.

Many food manufacturers took them out of their products anyway, bowing to consumer demand. But some trans fats still exist in products, and Philpott said more action will be taken to eliminate them.

Sasha McNicoll, co-ordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, urged the federal government to fund a school food program in every school in the country as a way to ensure kids are eating nutritious food.

She said the program would cost about $1 billion a year, and suggested the federal government kick in 20 per cent of the costs shared by the provinces, municipalities and civil society groups.

“It can improve their health and it can improve their education outcomes,” she told CBC News. “An investment now can help children develop better eating habits into adulthood and that will hopefully save in health-care costs down the road.”

By Susan Lunn, Kathleen Harris, CBC News     Oct 26, 2016
source: www.cbc.ca
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How The Sugar Industry Sweetened Research in its Favor

Scientists began to uncover a link between sugar and heart disease about 60 years ago, and now, the general consensus among experts is that sugar intake is associated with heart disease risk.

But why did it take so long for researchers to inspect this link?

A new historical analysis published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday claims that the sugar industry sponsored research that cast doubt about sugar’s health risks and promoted fat “as the dietary culprit” in heart disease – and didn’t disclose it.

A group then called the Sugar Research Foundation funded some of the early research on fat as the primary risk factor for heart disease, a “sophisticated” tactic to overshadow other research that placed blame on sweets as a risk factor, according to researchers.

The foundation, now called the Sugar Association, questioned the new paper’s findings in a response to CNN, saying it’s “challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen.” The organization was founded in 1943 by members of the American sugar industry and was dedicated to the scientific study of sugar’s role in food, as well as communicating that role to the public.

Researchers said the early heart disease research has implications for Americans’ health today.

“If we could rewind the script back to 1965 and we had said, ‘You know what, we’re not just going to worry about fat and heart disease, we’re also going to look at carbohydrates and in particular sugar, because that’s a concentrated form of carbohydrate,’ things might be really different,” said Laura Schmidt, a professor of health policy in the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine and a co-author of the new analysis.

“If we had not dismissed the idea that carbohydrates played a significant role in heart disease, we would be potentially in a different place today in terms of our obesity and heart disease rates.”

The dawn of heart disease research

In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th leader of the free world, suffered a massive heart attack. America watched the president’s recovery intently, and exercise paired with a healthy diet became a new mantra to ward off heart disease. The following year, Eisenhower was elected to a second term, and America’s focus on heart health – and, specifically, what constituted a heart-healthy diet – burgeoned.

But by the 1960s, two opposing ideas about what caused heart disease emerged. John Yudkin, a British physiologist and nutritionist, suggested that sugar consumption was linked to incidence of and mortality rates from coronary heart disease: Specifically, eating too much sugar might boost levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in blood.

Meanwhile, Ancel Keys, an American physiologist, argued that heart disease was related to scarfing down too many bad types of fat, as such fats may raise cholesterol and possibly cause a heart attack.
Keys’ theory became more widely accepted than Yudkin’s. Keys even graced a 1961 cover of Time magazine and was one of the first scientists to champion the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Whatever happened to Yudkin’s theory? Researchers suggest that when the sugar industry “manipulated” the scientific debate on heart disease, his theory – along with other sugar consumption research – was swept under the rug.

Old letters reveal new secrets

The new paper was led by Cristin Kearns, a postdoctoral researcher at the UCSF School of Dentistry, who collected letters dating from 1959 to 1971 between executives at the Sugar Research Foundation and various scientists.

Some of the letters, about 319, were in correspondence with Roger Adams, an organic chemist at the University of Illinois who died in 1971, and about 27 documents were in correspondence with David Mark Hegsted, a nutritionist at Harvard University who died in 2009.

In one instance, according to the new analysis, foundation Vice President John Hickson received drafts of a review by Hegsted and replied, “Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print.”

“It isn’t unusual for faculty who die, for their documents and materials to be stored or given as a gift to the university where they worked,” Schmidt said.

“It just so happened that Roger Adams had a long history of working with the sugar organization, and his materials happened to contain documents by industry executives and are one window into how the industry manipulated science.”

Kearns, Schmidt and their colleague Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at UCSF, analyzed the letters and other heart disease research-related public documents — from symposium proceedings to annual reports — from the 1950s and 60s.

The researchers discovered that executives in the sugar industry funded research in the 1960s and ’70s that, upon the executives’ request, cast doubt on the health risks of sugar while promoting the risks of fat. As fat was slowly reduced in the American diet, sugar was used more often to keep foods tasty, Glantz said.

sugar

“The sugar interest groups, with sophistication, were staying on top of the science that was being developed and intervening in a very sophisticated way to try to push the discussion away from things that would hurt them and toward things that would help them,” said Glantz, who has a long history of studying the tobacco industry. This new research on the sugar industry was sort of déjà vu, he said.

“It’s all the same tricks. … There was a pretty clear case emerging that eating sugar increased triglycerides, which increased heart disease risk. I think if the science had been left to its own devices, within a few years, there would have been a consensus that there was a causal link, which then should have influenced regulatory policy.”

Sugar warnings, then and now

In 1980, the United States issued its first dietary guidelines for the nation, recommending that Americans avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol for better heart health.
The guidelines also mentioned to avoid consuming too much sugar — but not for the heart, rather because “the major health hazard from eating too much sugar is tooth decay” (PDF).

“Experts are still debating what the role of sugar and heart disease is, even though there was evidence going back to the ’50s and ’60s that a segment of the population with high triglyceride levels should potentially be concerned about their sugar consumption,” Kearns said. “Had we come to this conclusion much earlier, people who had this triglyceride level would have been counseled much differently.”

Now, it turns out that added sugars might be more of a risk factor for coronary heart disease than saturated fats, according to a 2015 paper published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

The paper suggests that a diet high in added sugars can cause a three-fold increase in the risk of death due to heart disease.

In the latest dietary guidelines issued by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the government put a limit on sugar for the first time, recommending that added sugar make up only 10% of your daily calories.

New recommendations from the American Heart Association say children 2 to 18 should consume no more than about 6 teaspoons of added sugars in their daily diets.

The sugar industry weighs in

A representative for the Sugar Association emailed a statement from the association to CNN, questioning the new paper’s findings about the history of heart disease research and the sugar industry.

“We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today. Beyond this, it is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen,” the statement said.

The New England Journal of Medicine, where the first sugar industry-sponsored paper was published, didn’t implement a conflict-of-interest policy to disclose research funding sources until 1984. JAMA followed suit a few years later.

“Generally speaking, it is not only unfortunate but a disservice that industry-funded research is branded as tainted. What is often missing from the dialogue is that industry-funded research has been informative in addressing key issues,” the Sugar Association statement said. “Most concerning is the growing use of headline-baiting articles to trump quality scientific research — we’re disappointed to see a journal of JAMA’s stature being drawn into this trend.”

The deadly legacy of heart disease

As the debate around risk factors for heart disease continues, it remains the leading cause of death in the United States. About 610,000 people die of heart disease nationwide each year, about one in every four deaths.

Additionally, rates of obesity — which puts people at a higher risk of heart disease — have skyrocketed among both children and adults since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the CDC. As for Americans 20 and older, 30.4% reported that they were obese last year, up from 29.9% in 2014.

“We’re fatter than we’ve ever been, and we have diseases, epidemics of chronic diseases, related to sugar consumption,” Schmidt said. Meanwhile, the prevalence of diabetes has quadrupled in just over three decades.

“A third of the population is walking around with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The main risk factors for that are heavy sugar consumption, trans fat consumption and obesity. It’s soon to be the leading cause of liver transplantation in America,” she said, adding that even though sugary beverage intake among Americans has increased over the past couple of decades, it now seems to be on the decline.

“Particularly, sugary drinks have gone down a lot, which is really promising.”

Schmidt, Kearns and Glantz have done the science community “a great public service” by resurfacing the history of funded heart disease research, said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, in an editorial accompanying the new paper in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“As George Santayana famously said in ‘Reason of Common Sense’ (1905), ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ ” she wrote.

Just last year, Coca-Cola was exposed funding health research to claim that exercise can mitigate the effects of excessive consumption of its products, according to a written statement from Dr. Jim Krieger, founding executive director of the nonprofit Healthy Food America. Krieger was not involved in the current study.

“We have to ask ourselves how many lives and dollars could have been saved, and how different today’s health picture would be, if the industry were not manipulating science in this way,” he said in the statement. “Only 50 years later are we waking up to the true harm from sugar.”

 

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN       Mon September 12, 2016
source: CNN


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8 Countries Taking Action Against Junk Food Marketing

Some countries are responding to the high levels of junk-food advertising by restricting broadcast advertising and other child-targeted marketing techniques.

Children from the United States view an average of one food commercial for every five minutes of television watched, according to a study from the University of Minnesota. Unfortunately, these youth-targeted advertisements focus predominately on foods high in sugar and fat, such as fast food, high-sugar cereals, sugary drinks, and candy, making it no surprise that many children are not consuming healthy diets. In response to the high levels of junk-food advertising, some countries are taking the issue into their own hands by restricting broadcast advertising and other child-targeted marketing techniques.

According to the World Health Organization, advertisements can significantly influence food preferences and consumption. The impact is especially acute for young children under 10 years old, who tend to view ads as unbiased sources of information, making it more difficult for them to respond judiciously to marketing, found researchers from the University of Minnesota.

Furthermore, food marketers have expanded and intensified marketing efforts through a variety of channels in recent decades. “Parents’ efforts to help their children eat healthily are being undermined by sophisticated promotion of junk food to children: on TV, online, at the cinema, in magazines, in supermarkets, on food packaging, and for some even at school,” says Malcolm Clark, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, a United Kingdom-based organization that aims to protect children from junk-food marketing.

Anne Lappé, founder of Food MythBusters, a food-focused media initiative, accuses food companies of pushing cheap, addictive foods on children and teens in the name of profit. “Food corporations spend roughly two billion a year on ads specifically targeting children and teens,” says Lappé in a Food MythBusters video. “No wonder pediatricians are seeing diet-related illnesses of young people alarmingly on the rise.”

Some countries have pursued voluntary, industry-led pledges restricting advertising. The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, EU Pledge, and Children’s Advertising Initiative in the United States, European Union member states, and Canada, respectively, are composed of candy, fast-food, and soft drink companies who pledge to shift their marketing to healthier foods for children under 12. Critics say that these policies are ineffective since industries set the bar too low given the highly competitive marketplace. However, EU Pledge participants claim that children’s exposure to television marketing has fallen 48 percent and that U.S. industry spending on child food marketing has dropped by 19.5 percent since the pledges were enacted.

But governments can play a greater role in limiting the harmful public health impacts of food advertising by implementing legislation that restricts broadcasting, bans the use of cartoons and toys, or requires health warnings on commercials. This week, Food Tank highlights eight countries that have taken steps to limit the harmful impact of junk-food marketing.

1. Canada.

Quebec’s law passed in 1980 restricting junk-food marketing to kids was the first of its kind, banning fast food marketing aimed at children under 13 in print and electronic media. Fast-food expenditures subsequently decreased 13 percent. While the rest of Canada has seen a drastic increase in obesity among children, Quebec maintains the lowest child obesity rate.

obesity in kids

2. Chile.

Chilean law restricts advertising which targets children under the age of 14 for foods considered high in calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. The regulation applies to television programs, websites, radios, and magazines directed at children or those where the audience is composed of 20 percent children or more. Likewise, these select food items may not be marketed in schools. Promotional strategies including the use of cartoons and toys are also prohibited.

3. France.

Rather than setting restrictions on the amount of junk-food advertising, French authorities require that advertisements for products containing added fats, sweeteners, or sodium be accompanied by a message explaining dietary principles. One example is “for your health, eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.”

4. Ireland.

Foods high in fats, sugar, and sodium are banned from advertising, sponsorship, teleshopping, and product placement in children’s TV and radio programs where over 50 percent of the audience is under 18 years old. Any advertising targeting children under 18 cannot include celebrities, and those directed to children under 13 cannot include health claims or use licensed characters. Overall, advertisements for unhealthy foods may compose up to only 25 percent of all paid advertising on all channels.

5. Mexico.

The Mexican government commission reports that their children see more junk-food advertisements than any other country, totaling 12,000 a year. The Ministry of Health has taken a series of steps to limit child exposure to unhealthy food marketing, beginning with restricting advertising of certain foods and sweetened beverages, determined by their compliance to a nutrient profile model. Restrictions apply to television programs with more than 35 percent of the audience under 13 years old, between 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm on weekdays and 7:00 am and 7:30 pm on weekends. In July 2014, the government extended the restriction to films.

coke-obesity

6. Norway.

The Norwegian government restricts all broadcast advertising directed specifically to children through the Broadcasting Act of 1992. In 2013, industry and government took a step further: companies agreed to a self-regulated ban on all marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children under the age of 16. Norway also leads a World Health Organization network of 28 countries focused on reducing marketing pressures on children.

7. Taiwan.

In January 2016, Taiwan implemented unhealthy food advertising limits for kids under 12 years old. Dedicated television channels for children cannot broadcast advertisements of foods exceeding set fat, sodium, and sugar content limits from 5 pm to 9 pm. Like their Chilean counterparts, food marketers cannot promote their products with free toys at restaurants, a common practice among fast food chains.

8. United Kingdom.

A decade ago, the government passed a statutory ban on television advertising to children under 16 of foods high in fats, sugar, and salt. According to the UK Department of Health, children are now exposed to 37 percent fewer commercials and annual expenditures towards child-targeted advertisements have decreased 41 percent.

By Marisa Tsai / Food Tank June 27, 2016

Marisa Tsai is a Masters candidate of the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program at Tufts University. In addition to her academics and work with Food Tank, she is involved with the Long Beach Health Department’s healthy retail program and nutrition education efforts. Marisa is passionate about food justice, nutrition, and sustainable food policy. Find her on social media: @marzipantsai.


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Maybe You Should Stop Eating Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick.

By Kiera Butler / Mother Jones March 5, 2015

The following article first appeared in Mother Jones Magazine.

Meals are good, and snacking is bad. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if you eat dinner with your family, you will keep your girlish figure and your kids will be healthier. Taking a lunch break will make you succeed at your job.

Okay, now forget all that. Because as it turns out, the concept of three square meals a day has practically zero to do with your actual metabolic needs. And our dogmatic adherence to breakfast, lunch, and dinner might actually be making us sick.

Historian Abigail Carroll, author of the book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, explained to me that the the thrice-daily eating schedule goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages in Europe. When European settlers got to America, they also imported their meal habits: a light meal—maybe cold mush and radishes—in the morning, a heavier, cooked one midday, and a third meal similar to the first one later in the day. They observed that the eating schedule of the native tribes was less rigid—the volume and timing of their eating varied with the seasons. Sometimes, when food was scarce, they fasted. The Europeans took this as “evidence that natives were uncivilized,” Carroll explained to me in an email. “Civilized people ate properly and boundaried their eating, thus differentiating themselves from the animal kingdom, where grazing is the norm.” (So fascinated were Europeans with tribes’ eating patterns, notes Carroll, that they actually watched Native Americans eat “as a form of entertainment.”)

The three daily meals that the settlers brought evolved with Americans’ lifestyles. As people became more prosperous, they added meat to breakfast and dinner. After the Industrial Revolution, when people began to work away from home, the midday meal became a more casual affair, and the cooked meal shifted to the end of the day, when workers came home. The one thing that did not change was the overall amount of food that people ate—despite the fact that they had largely abandoned the active lifestyles of the farm in favor of sedentary ones in cities and suburbs. “People were still eating these giant country breakfasts,” says Carroll. Soon, doctors reported that more of their patients were suffering from indigestion.

In an effort to rein in caloric intake, nutritionists began advising people to eat a lighter breakfast—and marketers pounced on the opportunity. In 1897, brothers Will Keith Kellogg and John Harvey Kellogg introduced corn flakes as healthy alternative to heavy breakfasts. (The pair had an ulterior motive: They wanted to spread the gospel of the vegetarian diet because it was part of their Seventh Day Adventist faith.)

cornflakes

Corn flakes took off, and in the years that followed, breakfast became known as a meal for health food. Fruit-grower associations seized the opportunity to market juices, which, the ad campaigns announced, were chock full of a newly discovered thing called vitamins. The makers of breakfast foods warned of the dangers of skipping “the most important meal of the day.”

That line of reasoning persists today—check out Kellogg’s modern-day treatise on the health benefits of breakfast. But there’s just one problem: Science shows that when it comes to maintaining your metabolism—the bodily system that helps us turn food into energy and, when out of whack, can lead to diabetes and other disorders—it doesn’t make a whit of difference whether you eat breakfast or not. A 2014 study by the University of Bath showed that breakfast had practically zero effect on its subjects’ metabolism. (Breakfast eaters did burn more calories than breakfast skippers, but net calorie consumption was the same, since the breakfast eaters burned off the extra calories they ate at breakfast.) A similar University of Alabama study of people who were trying to diet found that breakfast made no difference, either way, on weight loss.

And breakfast isn’t the only metabolically unimportant meal. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter much at all how and when you get your calories. In a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, one group ate three meals a day while another ate six. (Total daily calorie counts were identical.) Researchers found no weight or hormonal differences between the groups. In 2014, University of Warwick researchers found no difference in metabolism between a group of women that ate two meals a day and another group that ate five.

The one thing that might actually improve your metabolism is periodic fasting—that’s right, the very same eating pattern that the early European settlers deemed uncivilized. Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging, has observed in a series of mice experiments over the past two decades that mice who skip feedings are leaner and live longer than their nonskipping counterparts. The fasting mice also have more robust brain cells than those who consume regular meals. Mattson, who skips breakfast and lunch most days, theorizes that caloric deprivation acts as a mild stress that helps cells build up their defenses—warding off damage from aging, environmental toxins, and other threats. Other research has shown that periodic fasting may also prevent heart disease.

Biologist Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, meanwhile, observed in a 2012 study that mice consuming all of their calories within an eight-hour window were less likely to develop metabolic diseases like diabetes than those who ate whenever they pleased. A follow-up study last year confirmed the results—though no one has conducted similar studies in humans.

So should you quit meals and fast intermittently instead? You could try it. Christopher Ochner, a weight loss and nutrition expert at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, notes that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution: Some people do well eating all their calories at once; others prefer to split them into snack-size portions.

Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don’t eat when it’s time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art: In industrialized societies, where food is abundant, we eat because of social cues “or just because something smells good.” If we can teach ourselves to pay attention to our own bodies instead of our environment, he says, “that might be the best diet of all.”

Kiera Butler is a senior editor at Mother Jones. For more of her stories, click here.