07/24/2017 12:00 EDT | Updated 07/25/2017 13:18 EDT

3 Major Food Policy Changes All Canadians Need To Know About Right Now

The Canadian government is consulting Canadians on three food law or policy changes that would impact animals.

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Right now, the Canadian government is consulting Canadians on three major food law or policy changes that would impact animals. Here's what you need to know and what you can do!

Food Guide Consultation

What you need to know:

The Canadian government has issued new draft healthy eating recommendations, which would overhaul the antiquated system of food categories—focusing instead on eating patterns—and emphasize the importance of including a "high proportion of plant-based foods." The main recommendation is for a "regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein." The "milk and alternatives" category is gone in the draft guidelines. What's more, the draft guide acknowledges the link between food systems and our environment, stating: "diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact." Learn more here.

What you can do:

Register here and take the short survey asking what you do and don't like about the draft guidelines before August 14, 2017. You can also participate in the online forum. Our voices were heard loud and clear in the first round of consultations; the government reported that one of the major shortcomings of the existing food guide is that it was not useful or applicable for vegans, and our national food guide should be inclusive!

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Bowls of various legumes (red turkish lentils, yellow indian lentils, canadian lentils).

Restricting Unhealthy Food and Beverage Marketing to Children

What you need to know:

Health Canada is consulting Canadians about banning the advertising of unhealthy foods to children. Foods high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat could not be marketed directly to children 17 and under. The government is considering a ban on marketing foods with more than 15% DV of saturated fat to kids, which would include cheese and sweetened yogurt. Another option is banning marketing foods with more than 5% DV, which would even catch calorie-reduced cheese. The ban could include traditional and online marketing as well as sneakier marketing like the dairy industry's school "education" programs.

What you can do:

Register here and take the short survey before August 14, 2017. Tell the government to ban marketing foods to kids if they contain more than 5% DV of saturated fat! You can also ask them to ensure all advertising, including in schools, is banned. Vulnerable children should not be targeted by advertisers. We all have an interest in ensuring the next generation grows up learning healthy eating habits and avoiding chronic lifestyle disease.

A Food Policy for Canada

What you need to know:

The federal government is creating Canada's first-ever national food policy to set a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while identifying actions we can take in the short-term. Their goals are to:

  • increase access to affordable food;
  • improve health and food safety;
  • conserve our soil, water, and air; and
  • grow more high-quality food.

Moving away from animal agriculture and towards plant agriculture and innovation would address each of these goals.

Leonidovich via Getty Images

What you can do:

Take the online survey here before July 27, 2017 (Note: the deadline has now been extended to August 31, 2017). Tell the government:

  • What's missing?: There are major current and emerging market opportunities in plant-based and cultured meat, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based replacements for these animal foods are more environmentally sustainable, better for personal health, better for public health (less food-borne illness, pandemic risk, and antibiotic resistance), and better for the animals, who endure intensive confinement conditions under the current system.
  • Conserving soil, water, and air: Research from internationally respected think tank Chatham House has found that reducing global meat consumption is essential if we are to keep global warming below the "danger level" of two degrees Celsius. Moreover, the public believes it is the responsibility of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat.
  • Affordable food: Plant-based sources of protein are significantly cheaper than animal flesh. At a Canadian grocery store recently, extra lean ground beef was more than five times more expensive than tofu, chickpeas, or red lentils. The government should develop policies to encourage consumption of healthful, sustainable, and affordable pulses (i.e., beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas). The government should also ensure healthful fruits and vegetables are affordable and accessible to all, and focus on increasing their consumption.
  • Improving health and food safety: In 2016, Canadians consumed per capita 95.06 kg (209.57 lbs) of animal flesh and 19.93 dozen eggs—far exceeding global averages. Health Canada recommends Canadians eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, with a focus on plant-based sources of protein. When it comes to food safety, animal farming contributes to antibiotic resistance, food-borne illness, and pandemics.

Learn more here.

It's exciting that the government is starting to address these important food systems issues, and we all have a role to play in speaking up. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to a kinder, more sustainable, healthier world for all!

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