The Government of Canada announced it is moving ahead with its Front of Pack Warning Labeling public consultation (Gazette 1). By exempting whole milk from this proposed policy, Health Canada recognizes the scientific evidence demonstrating the nutritional value of milk as a key contributor to the health of Canadians. However, as currently proposed, many other dairy products, rich in essential nutrients, will be stigmatised by a warning label that may confuse consumers as to which products are healthy and which are not.
“Dairy Farmers of Canada supports the education of Canadians on the benefits of a balanced-diet. We are concerned that this approach to labelling may come with the unintended consequence of deterring Canadians from seeking more information on the nutritional value of dairy products, at the expense of a balanced-diet for Canadians,” said Pierre Lampron, President of Dairy Farmers of Canada. “We are pleased that the Government is recognizing the nutritional benefits of whole milk, however given the importance of dairy to the overall health of Canadians, we want to make sure that as the Government goes through the consultation process, they take a more holistic approach. DFC will be fully engaged in the consultation on Front-of-Package warning labelling, to ensure that Canadians can continue to enjoy nutritious dairy products as a part of a healthy, balanced diet. Canadian dairy farmers will make their voices heard in this important debate.”
DFC shares the overall goal of promoting healthy eating for all Canadians, so long as it is supported by evidence-based policy. One of the main objectives of Front-of-Package warning labelling is to reduce chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Health Canada’s own 2015 Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance identifies the scientific evidence showing that milk products are beneficial for bone health, and are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. The report also states that Canadians do not consume enough vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fibre – milk is a valuable source of six of these nutrients.
“The intent of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy is to help consumers make informed healthier choices. The best way to do this is to drive them to the Nutrition Facts Table. What assurances can Health Canada give that this type of warning labelling will not simply deter consumers from the products themselves?” said Lampron. “This approach runs the risk of alarming consumers, and ultimately preventing them from learning more about the nutritional benefits of a food. This is completely contrary to the stated intent of Health Canada. How will they address this issue for Canadians?”