OTTAWA – Health Canada is set to publish a revised Canada Food Guide later this month. Indications are that the document would de-emphasize the scientifically proven nutritional value and health benefits of dairy products by eliminating the Milk and Alternatives group and actively advocating that Canadians shift towards consuming more plant-based sources of protein.
Not only could this be detrimental to the long-term health of future generations by leading them to erroneously think that dairy products are unhealthy, it will also have an effect on a sector that continues to be negatively impacted by the concessions granted in recent trade agreements.
“There is no scientific justification to minimize the role of milk products in a healthy diet as they are a key source of 6 of the 8 nutrients that most Canadians already fall short of. The current scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that the daily consumption of 2 to 4 servings of milk products has a beneficial role to play in promoting bone health and preventing several chronic diseases that Health Canada wants to address with the new Food Guide such as hypertension, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke,” said Isabelle Neiderer, Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC’s) Director of Nutrition and Research, and a registered dietitian.
Research continues to confirm that milk proteins rank as some of the highest quality protein available, and are particularly important for growing children and preserving healthy bones and muscles in aging Canadian adults.
This is especially true when compared to the plant-based proteins Health Canada is considering prioritizing over dairy within the new Food Guide. Unlike milk products, these plant-based sources of protein do not even meet Federal requirements to be called “source of protein” on their packaging.
“Milk products and other protein foods are not interchangeable. Milk products provide different nutrients aside from protein that are important to health. Lumping milk products together with other protein foods will lead to inadequate intakes of important nutrients,” she added.
To make matters worse, these changes to Canada’s domestic health guidelines come at the same time when the dairy sector is still reeling from the latest rounds of concessions made by the federal government to secure recent trade agreements. “This would cause further harm to the dairy sector by deliberately diminishing the nutritional value of dairy in the eyes of Canadians – in spite of scientific evidence,” said DFC president, Pierre Lampron. “Not only will this harm the dairy sector and the hundreds of thousands who depend upon it for their livelihoods, it also risks harming Canadian consumers by creating confusion about the nutritional value of dairy”, he continued.
For more than 75 years, milk and dairy products have been clearly recognized within Canada’s Food Guide as playing a key role in a healthy, balanced diet. The scientific evidence supporting a role for milk products in the prevention of chronic diseases, is stronger than ever, and new evidence continues to accumulate. As highlighted by members of Canadian Clinicians for Therapeutic Nutrition, which consists of nearly 3,000 member clinicians, in a letter written to the Health Minister, there are many scientific studies now showing the benefits of full fat dairy.
The direction proposed by the new Food Guide is not evidence-based, and could have further long-lasting consequences on a sector that has already been placed in a difficult position by this Government. Dairy Farmers of Canada asks that Prime Minister Trudeau direct the Minister of Health do her homework by considering and taking into account all available scientific evidence prior to the release of the new Food Guide. The health of Canadians, and the health of a vibrant Canadian sector, are at stake.