The federal government is moving to replace the outdated Canada Food Guide in an attempt to stem an obesity crisis plaguing the country.
Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a consultation process Monday to update the ineffective nutrition guide with better recommendations and the latest scientific evidence.
Philpott told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal she recognizes the changes will have an impact on the food industry but they are necessary.
“We need to make choices that are good for Canadians, that will support them in making healthy choices and we will obviously make sure that we will do that in a way that allows industry time to catch up,” Philpott said.
The revision is part of a multi-year, healthy eating strategy expected to include regulations to eliminate trans fats and cut the amount of salt in processed foods.
Health Canada says four out of five Canadians are at risk of developing cancer, heart disease or Type-2 diabetes.
Statistics show that six out of 10 adults are considered overweight and nearly one-third of young people also fall into the overweight or obese category.
In March, a Senate committee study found Canada’s Food Guide is in need of a drastic makeover to help combat an obesity crisis.
The report also painted a bleak picture for people plagued with conditions linked to excess weight and said the guide is no longer effective in providing nutritional guidance.
Canadians are not eating enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains or milk and alternatives while certain nutrients such as calcium and fibre are under-consumed.
Roughly 30 per cent of calories consumed come from foods that are high in sugar, fat and sodium.
The guide was last updated in 2007 and Philpott says she’s heard from Canadians they find it difficult to navigate or apply its recommendations.
The Food Guide revision will include an online consultation on Health Canada’s website with health professionals and everyday Canadians until Dec. 8.
The federal Health Department aims to have updated dietary guidelines by the end of 2018 that will reflect the most up-to-date scientific evidence on diet and health.
Other initiatives include updated nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods and restricting marketing to children.
Philpott said Quebec has had important legislation in place against marketing and advertising to children and that the federal government will draw on that as inspiration.
“There’s evidence that children in Quebec have less consumption of fast foods, for example,” Philpott said. “We are now going to be looking at legislation and regulations at the federal level that will restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids.”
Philpott said the government is also following international efforts on a sugary drinks tax, but hasn’t made any decision to introduce one in Canada.