OTTAWA—After years of research analysis, stakeholder and public consultation, and message testing, Health Canada has published an updated version of Canada’s Food Guide.
In a groundbreaking move, the familiar “meat and alternatives” and “dairy and alternatives” categories are gone. Instead, the food guide is organized around guidelines, emphasizing the intake of plant-based proteins and fats, and water as the beverage of choice.
Anna Pippus, a lawyer and plant-based food policy expert with Animal Justice, said:
“The new food guide offers a glimmer of hope that truth and integrity can prevail. For too many years, Canada’s food guide has compromised our health, environment, and animals by emphasizing meat, dairy, and eggs as being foundational in our diets. The new food guide turns that outdated thinking on its head, giving nutrient-dense and fibre-rich plant foods the prominence they deserve. Plant-based foods are associated with long and healthy lives, and they’re the foods Canadians should be eating more of. It so happens that these foods are also better for the planet and for animals.
“It’s also encouraging that Health Canada is recommending that the government use policy tools to help ensure good food choices are the easy food choices for Canadians. Plant-rich diets are a triple win for health, environment and animals, and they should be easily accessible to everyone, regardless of age, income, location, or ability.”
Though groundbreaking in their organization and emphasis, the new eating guidelines are not actually a major departure from the previous guide, which said to “have beans, lentils, and tofu often” and to “satisfy your thirst with water.” However, those important evidence-based recommendations were obscured by an undue emphasis on meat and dairy following decades of intense industry lobbying.
In the past, animal industries successfully applied intense pressure, resulting in increased recommended servings of meat and dairy products in previous versions of the food guide. During the latest revision process, to protect the integrity of the food guide, Health Canada announced that the food industry would not be permitted closed-door lobbying meetings, instead inviting food companies to participate in the regular public consultation process.
The meat and dairy industries attempted to get around this rule by lobbying other departments and individual politicians. A search of the federal lobbyist registry shows that dozens of meat and dairy industry representatives heavily lobbied MPs and other decision-makers in an attempt to influence the food guide in favour of the their industries. The federal Agriculture Committee staged hearings and issued a formal recommendation that the government align the food guide with agricultural business interests.
Animal Justice applauds Health Canada for safeguarding the integrity of the process and resisting industry attempts at influence.
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