CANADA – Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have voiced concern over a proposed regulation from Health Canada to change the labels on packages of ground beef, claiming it may create doubt of their product’s nutritional value.
According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), Health Canada is proposing a food labelling change that will require ground beef sold in Canadian retail stores to carry a “high in” saturated fat warning label.
The group says this would make the country “the only jurisdiction in the world” to have such a label on its ground beef.
In October 2016, Health Canada launched the Healthy Eating Strategy to “improve the food environment and help make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians.” Part of that strategy included front-of-package (FOP) labelling.
Health Canada notes that the intent of FOP labelling “is not to convey a warning, rather it aims to help reduce risks to health by providing consumers with quick and easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat.”
It highlighted that the FOP nutrition symbol will complement existing initiatives, such as the revised Nutrition Facts tables and Canada’s Food Guide.
“These labels are widely recognized by health organizations as an effective tool to help counteract rising rates of diet-related chronic disease in Canada,” it said.
Despite a list of exemptions that include whole foods like whole cuts of meat, according to ABP ground beef is set to be labelled.
“Ground beef should be exempt from Health Canada’s proposed front-of-package (FOP) labelling like other nutritious foods, such as single ingredient meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, and fruit,” said Michelle McMullen, CCA’s Communications Manager, in a release.
“The intent of FOP labelling is not to convey a warning, rather it aims to help reduce risks to health by providing consumers with quick and easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat.”
The Health Canada release however clarified that not all ground beef will require the FOP nutrition symbol. These include options within the ground meat category that are lower in saturated fat like extra lean ground pork or extra lean ground beef with 5% or less of its weight as total fat.
Proponents of whole foods like ground beef have raised various concerns, from minimizing the nutritional benefits with an oversimplified label to the possibility of trade implications.
One of these proponents is Dr. Melanie Wowk, Chair of the Alberta Beef Producers, who says, if the proposal is endorsed it will jeopardize the beef industry in terms of trade and also affect consumers perception.
“It minimizes the nutritional value of beef and it will have negative impacts on consumers,” she told CTV News in an interview.