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Canada's new food labels, the good and the bad.

Health Canada recently announced the changes to be made to the food labels found on packaged foods in Canada. The changed components on food labels include:

  • the nutrition facts table

  • list of ingredients

  • serving size

  • sugars information

added sugar

The Good:

  1. Serving sizes will now be based off of regulated reference amounts. This means serving sizes among similar products will be consistent to make comparing products and reviewing nutrition information easier.

  2. Serving sizes should now reflect portion sizes actually used by Canadians.

  3. Serving sizes of products which can be measured will now be shown in a common household measurement in addition to the g amount.

For example: when looking at two different yogurts, both serving sizes should be listed at ¾ cup (175 g).

4. Foods in a single serving container holding up to 200% of the referenced amount of food, the new serving size will be the whole container.

For example: the reference amount of milk is 250 ml, a 473 ml chocolate milk (189% of 250 ml) will now how a serving size of 473 ml.

5. Food that comes in pieces (crackers) or divided into pieces before eating (pizza) the serving size will be shown as the number of pieces or a fraction of the food paired with it’s weight in grams based off of the decided reference amount.

For example: the reference amount for crackers is 20 grams, so cracker A serving size is 4 crackers per 20 grams and cracker B serving size is 11 crackers per 20 grams.

6. On the ingredients list, sugar based ingredients are now grouped together under the title ‘sugars’ to help consumers more easily identify the source of added sugars in the food.

7. The nutrients listed on the nutrition facts panel reflect better the nutrients Canadians are not getting enough of (Vit A and C have been removed – we get enough of this, and potassium is added because most Canadians do not get enough). These values are now listed in mg for calcium, potassium and iron which makes it easier to get an idea of how much you are getting.

Natural sugar

The Bad:

  1. Calories are now underlined and bolded. As a dietitian, I see daily how Canadians focus overly on calories. Canadians who are still learning how to use a nutrition facts table look to calories first already and this shifts the focus away from the other nutrients.

  2. % Daily Value for total sugars based off of 100 g of total sugar per day.

This change is the most disappointing. Our bodies aren’t able to differentiate between the 20$ raw, vegan, coconut, designer sugar, the standard table sugar, and the sugar found naturally in foods. However, the fact that added sugar is not going to be identified in food labels is a huge miss and here is why.

When we consume food such as whole fruit we are also getting other benefits such as fibre, water, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is also far far easier to over eat added sugar.

The other thing to note is the lack of evidence to support an upper limit to TOTAL sugar. Where the heck is this 100 grams of total sugar per day number coming from? The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of our daily caloric intake come from ADDED sugars. That is around 50 grams of added sugar from most Canadians.

This 100 grams of total sugar per day number is arbitrary, just go ahead and ignore this specific % DV. Overall some great changes I look forward to seeing. For the full article click here.

For more information about different kinds of sugars click here.

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