The federal government’s decision to stop policing nutrition claims on food labels threatens Canadians’ health and leaves consumers with little recourse when food labels are wrong, the head of an agricultural union says.
In the budget released Thursday, the Conservative government announced it would no longer verify nutrition claims on food labels, and will instead set up a website where consumers can take their concerns directly to food producers.
“The Government will change how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) monitors and enforces non-health and non-safety food labelling regulations,” the budget document states. “The CFIA will introduce a web-based label verification tool that encourages consumers to bring validated concerns directly to companies and associations for resolution.”
Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, which represents food inspectors at the CFIA, said the new policy amounts to “a total farce.”
Consumers don’t have the capacity to determine whether nutrition information, such as the level of sodium or cholesterol in a food product, is accurate, he argued, adding that he disagreed with the government's assertion that nutrition labels are a "non-health and non-safety" issue.
He cited Crohn’s disease sufferers and diabetics as two groups of people who rely on accurate food labelling to determine what they can and can’t eat. The new policy is “hanging them out to dry,” Kingston told The Huffington Post.
Consumers “are being asked to take on the corporations that hurt them,” he said.
Asked if the new rules amounted to greater danger to Canada’s food supply, Kingston said: “Absolutely.”
The office of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, which is responsible for the CFIA, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prior to the budget being released, news reports suggested the CFIA was projecting a $21-million cut to its $719-million budget, which would have resulted in some 200 food inspectors -- 10 per cent of the total -- losing their jobs.
The actual budget cut came in considerably higher than that, at $56 million, but Kingston could not say how many job losses that would mean. He said the CFIA had received “assurances” the budget cuts would not mean a loss of front-line staff such as food inspectors, “but that’s nonsense.”
Kingston said the previous policy was bad enough. “We find [food labelling] violations all over the place” and the agency already “walks away from enforcing clear violations” in an effort not to impede commerce, he asserted.
An investigation by Postmedia news last year found that the existing system had significant flaws.
Even when government inspectors identify what they believe is a misleading or fraudulent claim on a food product, some complain they can't act swiftly to get it off the market because of Ottawa's slow, muddied approach to policing food labels.
In other cases, inspectors say they face hurdles from company lawyers while the products with disputed nutrition claims continue to be sold.
Other inspectors complain there just aren't enough resources to deal with misleading food labels.
Not all the cuts to the CFIA budget will come from staff reductions. The government announced in its budget Thursday that the CFIA would merge back-office functions with other agencies with similar mandates, such as Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, saving on administrative costs.
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Grandma was right -- nothing beats chicken soup for fending off sniffles. Not only does it provide the fluids needed to help fight off viruses, it's a powerful mucus stimulant so it helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus. It's also thought to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease cold symptoms. Keep some organic chicken stock on hand, because studies have found that even commercial soup is as effective as homemade.
If you want to punch up the healing power of your chicken soup - or any other dish -- add plenty of garlic and onions. When combined, these flavorful healers contain numerous antiseptic and immunity boosting compounds. As an added plus, garlic helps to open clogged sinuses.
No herbal medicine cabinet should be without mushrooms. They increase the production of cytokines, which are cells that help fight off infection. They also contain polysaccharides, which are compounds that support the immune system. The most potent cold- and flu-fighting 'shrooms are shitake, maitake and reishi.
Citrus fruits contain hefty doses of powerhouse vitamin C. Studies have found that this antioxidant can reduce cold symptoms by 23 percent, and all that's needed is just one to eight grams (1,000 to 8,000 milligrams) to do the trick. Besides citrus fruits, other foods that have high amounts of vitamin C include papaya, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts and red bell peppers.
Studies have shown that eating a cup of low-fat yogurt each day can reduce your susceptibility to colds by 25 per cent. The beneficial bacteria is Lactobacillus reuteri which has been found to block the replication of viruses that invade the body when we get sick. Not all brands have that particular bacteria, so check labels and be sure to go organic.
While yogurt is a great source of probiotics, some have more than others and we can really benefit by taking an additional supplement. Other immune-booster "musts" are vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acid.
Hot tea is soothing and a great home remedy, helping to thin mucus and ensure proper hydration. For added health benefit, sip green or black tea -- both are filled with flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants.
Ginger comes to the aid when we're sick in some powerful ways. Besides soothing a scratchy throat, it has chemicals called sesquiterpenes that target rhinoviruses - which are the most common family of cold viruses - as well as substances that help suppress coughing. Ginger is also a natural pain and fever reducer and a mild sedative so you'll feel more comfortable and be able to rest easier. Add a couple of tablespoons of shredded gingerroot to your tea, or make ginger tea (it comes in tea bags, but you can also simmer fresh sliced ginger to make a potent brew).
Honey has numerous medicinal properties and because it coats your throat it is a natural way to soothe sore throats. It also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties to help fight infections from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Skip the common clover honey that you'll find in the supermarket as it has the lowest antioxidant level. Look for buckwheat honey, which has the highest. (A note of caution: never give honey to children under one years of age because their immune systems are not developed enough to ward off infantile botulism, which is carried in honey spores.)
It's ironic that black pepper -- the spice best known for making you sneeze -- can ward off the sniffles. Black peppercorns are high in piperine, a compound known for its anti-fever and pain-relieving qualities.
Make recipes more flavorful with garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano -- while spicing things up, you'll also get an added kick of immune-busters, too.
NEXT: Beauty and body treatments you've probably never heard of
Why not add a little bling to your beauty routine? Now you can -- if you live in Florida and have enough cash to dish out for the, wait for it, 24 carat gold facial. Yep! Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach offers spa patrons the opportunity to have their entire body painted in gold. The thought is karats can help stave off cellulite and prevent aging.
At Channing's Day Spa in Chicago they think putting fish eggs on your face is better than Botox. They claim that freeze-dried caviar repairs sun damage and minimizes wrinkles.
In Israel, a snake massage is used to relieve heavy back tension and stress... you just have to block out the fact that your masseuse is a slithering snake! But fear not, all snakes are non-venomous.
It started in Japan and then New Yorkers found out about it. The idea is to eat pig's feet and since they are rich in collagen, it will help get rid of wrinkles.
This has been marketed as a natural and organic alternative to botox. It was released by Heaven by Deborah Mitchell and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/kate-middleton-skin_n_1760202.html" target="_blank">boasts big fans like Kate Middleton and the Duchess of Cornwall</a>.
It's not just your face that deserves a little TLC... In the US, the new 'butt facial' is a treatment that is designed to tone, de-blemish, massage, and polish your neglected derriere.
Dubbed the, 'Viagra for hair', this hair conditioning treatment is derived from the sperm of a bull. Combined with a protein-rich Katera root, this treatment promises to help repair broken hair and give it a silky smooth look...
A cactus would be the last thing you think of when dreaming about a relaxing massage, but the spiky cactus leaf can be used as a massaging instrument. A prick-free cactus pad is used to rub down the skin and help bring out the toxins, whilst absorbing a blend of hydrating cactus meringue and cactus blossom into your skin.
The placenta has another use other than feeding an unborn baby - as an anti-ageing beauty cream! For the cream, lamb placental extract is taken to create a potent lotion which rich in nutrients and bio-stimulants, promising to revitalise and moisturise your skin.
In Italy, you can indulge (if you could call it that) with a wet hay body wrap. But before you conjure images of a scratchy experience, this treatment has a twist - you soak in a water bed heated to over 100F degrees while you're wrapped in the hay. The unusual treatment is said to fortify your immune system and stimulate your metabolism.
A favourite with the Japanese Geisha ladies, this unusual facial made from sterilised nightingale bird excrement, is proving to be popular with Western beauty-seekers too. The treatment promises to brighten up the complexion and contains enzymes which act as an effective skin cleanser.
Although a cold beer helps ease the stress away after a hard day, but a beer bath? In West Bohemia, Czech Republic, they believe that beer has super healing powers and have spas around the country offering 'relaxing' beer baths. Apparently beer has skin boosting B vitamins and helps those with high blood pressure. Not to be outdone, a spa in Japan called Yunessan boasts a giant bath full of Sake, green tea, coffee and even ramen noodles...
In Ethiopia, a butter massage is the beauty treatment to have for women hoping to give their lady parts a 'makeover'. Massaged in butter from scalp to toe, butter is applied everywhere on the body (in and out). The women then sit above a smoke hole in a gymnastic-like pose until the butter melts completely. This bizarre treatment apparently tightens vaginal muscles post-pregnancy.
Lactacyd White Intimate Wash has hit the Thai beauty market, promising to make your privates "safely fairer within four weeks" Because according to them: "Sweat and excessive friction from tight clothing can darken the skin around the intimate area, causing self-consciousness, decreased confidence or inhibiting intimacy."
India's 18 Again "tightening and rejuvenating" cream was advertised through the medium of song and dance. Rishi Bhatia, chairman and managing director of Ultratech India, told Campaign India: "18 Again is a first-of-its-kind product for women in India. This product is being launched in India post clinical trials conducted amongst women of all age groups under dermatological control.
When we first heard that this weird beauty treatment may well be on the rise again, we had to do a bit of research. And here's what we found out: urine therapy was historically used by the Greeks and Romans to cure all that ailed them. It was also used to, ahem, whiten their teeth. Essentially, the procedure involves drinking your own urine in the hopes you'll look and feel younger. In modern times -- and on shows like 'My Strange Addiction' -- people have been known to drink urine for various reasons. Some scientists have even speculated urine has anti-carcinogenic properties -- which could stave off cancer and wrinkles. No real evidence has been found to support those claims.
The Smooth Synergy Cosmedical Spa in NYC scrubs your skin down with a papaya and mint scrub to take off dead skin and clean pores. But the real kicker is when they strap your booty up to a microcurrent therapy machine to zap away that cellulite.
Milk does do a body good. But the trend toward making your own soap -- to be used when you shower or simply wash your hands -- out of breast milk is, well, a bit extreme. The trend emerged as people started to worry that brand-name soaps were full of chemicals and detergents that would harm their skin (or worse, cause cancer). And since milk is supposed to nourish the epidermis, well, why not turn excess breast milk into something, ahem, usable?
Just because Gwyneth Paltrow swears by this cream -- and its accompanying facial -- doesn't mean you should actually try applying snake venom cream to your face. Apparently, using a cream which has venom as an active ingredient helps plump up the skin (much in the same way botox does).
This popular treatment has become a spa go-to for women around the world who want softer, smoother feet. Essentially, this treatment involves dipping your feet into a tank and letting hungry little fish -- Garra rufa fish -- gently eat away at the dead skin cells that make your skin feel rough. Some places and states have banned the practice for fears it may be unsanitary.
Fire cupping is a natural treatment where a practitioner ignites a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and places it inside a cup. When the cup is placed against a patient's skin, a suction action begins to happen -- which is said to increase circulation. Once "activated," the glass bulbs can be moved to key "energy" points all over the body to boost the immune system and increase blood flow (which will help give skin a natural glow, making patients look younger). A big fan of the procedure is reportedly Gwyneth Paltrow.
A chocolate body wrap? Well sign us up. Sure, there's no scientific evidence to support the claims treating your body to some of the sweet stuff will soothe, smooth and detoxify your skin, but it involves sitting in chococlate for an hour. Sounds pretty tasty to us. Check out the spa devoted to all sorts of chocolatey good beauty treatments.
On the latest episode of 'Kourtney & Kim Take Miami," Kim decides to get what is called a 'Vampire Facial.' The procedure, where doctors take blood from a patients arm and stick it back in their face, left Kim in a great deal of pain. Kim says she underwent the cosmetic surgery because she wants to look more youthful and erase wrinkles. Kristina Behr has the gory details.