The Junk Foods of Canada
Posted Thursday, May 14, 2009

According to an article in Tuesday's Canadian Medical Association Journal, our neighbors to the north may soon be reversing a policy which initially sounded like an entirely positive step: Back in 2005 Health Canada had proposed broadening the field of foods that might be fortified with nutrients such as thiamin, beta-carotene, calcium and vitamin D. The Federal regulations for this proposed plan have yet to appear, despite expectation that they would be released in March. This delay has fueled speculation that the expanded fortification plan may be altered drastically when it finally arrives, or discarded entirely.

The principle concern of many Canadian health experts is that this plan may lead to a marketing coup rather than actually improving public health. As proposed, the fortification plan would exclude foods which naturally contain vitamins and minerals (fruits, vegetables, grains, fresh meat and fish, spices, etc.), while foods that are less well thought of by nutritionists (frozen foods, packaged snacks, junk food essentially) would then have the opportunity to be fortified, and consequentially marketed as such: "Cheese puffs, with added vitamin D", as the Globe and Mail has it in Wednesday's newspaper.

So, perceived difficulty seems to be this: Will adding healthy ingredients to products which are not healthy 1) improve the health of those who are not particularly health-conscious in diet, or 2) sabotage the efforts of the individuals who are attempting to eat a healthy diet, but who will be misguided by new labeling and advertising claims. There is quite the spirited debate going on this topic in Canada, and to make it simple, it seems based around the public's gullibility to advertising. Here is a great quote from the CBC:

"My concerns are people might be avoiding healthy foods because they think, 'Now I don't need my apple a day, I can have a chocolate bar a day,'" [said Dr. Tom Ransom, an endocrinologist and obesity expert with Capital Health in Halifax.]

What do you think? Are we this easily mislead, wherein we could go so far down the (hyperbolic) path and fly so directly in the face of common sense? Chocolate bars/cheese puffs/whatever-your-vice being more healthy than the apple a day? Advertising is powerful, but so too is common sense. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Globe and Mail: Cheese puffs, with added vitamin D
CBC: Health Canada weighs fortifying junk foods
CTV: Critics slam planned food fortification changes


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