February 28, 2003
Food manufacturers doing business in Canada have been granted sweeping new means of communicating health benefits of foods on labels.
Health Canada, the Canadian government's regulatory body for foods, is mandating consistent nutrition labeling on most food labels and is permitting, for the first time in Canada, a short list of five diet-related health claims for foods.
"The goal here is to provide better information and more consistent information to Canadian consumers so they can make good decisions about healthy eating," said Health Canada spokesman Ryan Baker.
The five health claims relate to calcium and osteoporosis; sodium and hypertension; dietary fat and cardiovascular heart disease; fruits and vegetables and cancer; and dietary sugars and alcohols and dental caries. These five claims are also permitted in neighbouring US markets.
"We're moving toward greater harmonisation with the US," said Kelley Fitzpatrick, director of the Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
The nutrition labeling will closely mirror the "Nutrition Facts" tables on US food labels—with the notable addition of trans fats. Health Canada is still looking at other health claims allowed in the US, according to Fitzpatrick, including folate and neural tube defects; fibre-containing fruits and vegetables and cancer; and soluble fibre and cardiovascular heart disease.
Product-specific health claims remain unaddressed, and popular ingredients in the US such as lutein and plant sterols also remain disallowed.
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