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    The Canadian Press

    14 per cent of sausages tested across Canada had meat not on label: study

    A federally funded study has found sausages sold in grocery stores in several provinces contain meat not declared on the label.The research, conducted by a team at the University of Guelph and commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, looked at 100 sausages collected from grocery stores in three locations in Ontario, Quebec and Western Canada. All were labelled as a single type of meat.The study found that 14 per cent of sausages sampled contained meats that weren't on the label."This demonstrates a breakdown in traceability and if you have a breakdown, you have potential risk for food safety," said lead author Robert Hanner, an associate professor with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.Hanner conducted a similar study two years ago that found 20 per cent of sausages sampled had been mislabelled."It's a positive story in that it is trending in the right direction," Hanner said of the latest findings.The team looked for beef, pork, chicken, turkey, horse, sheep and goat in the sausages.In five beef sausage samples, for instance, researchers found sheep meat actually made up more than one per cent of the sausage."This is not trace carryover," Hanner said, adding that his team also found trace levels of sheep in 27 other samples."How is mutton getting into significant amount of these products, even in the trace level?" he said. "We don't know."Four of the beef sausages that contained sheep also had pork, and one contained chicken, the study found.All of the beef sausages contained the meat declared on the label as the predominant ingredient in the sausage, the research noted. Among the 20 chicken sausages sampled, the study found one was predominantly made up of beef. Another was also made up largely of beef, with 20 per cent turkey and less than five per cent chicken. One turkey sausage likely contained bison meant, the study found. There weren't any unlabeled species in the pork sausages."At least we didn't find horse meat this time," Hanner said, referencing a finding from two years ago. "(That) has personal, religious or cultural implications."The latest findings — published in the journal Food Research International — have food safety recall repercussions, the researcher said."If we have an E. coli-tainted batch of beef, we'll recall that beef, but if it's finding its way into pork products and things we don't know it's in, we can't recall them," he said.Hanner said the CFIA took "follow-up actions" after his last study, but doesn't know what they were."There were five turkey sausages last time that were wholly replaced by chicken and we don't see any evidence of that this time," he said. "That problem seems to be resolved, but we have discovered other issues, such as the mutton problem."The CFIA did not immediately respond to questions but has applauded Hanner's team on his cutting edge research that uses DNA barcoding technology among other methods to figure out what's inside the sausages."Scientific innovation helps protect Canada's food supply on many levels, and DNA barcoding plays a key role through species identification," agency's deputy chief food safety officer, Dr. Aline Dimitri said in a statement.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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  • Canada's Food Guide will now focus on more than just food
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    A look at the brand new, revised Canada Food Guide. The new edition of the Canada Food Guide puts more focus on healthy eating habits and food literacy, rather than what and how much to consume. The update, released on Tuesday, doesn’t feature specific food groups or serving suggestions, as it has in the past.

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    Instead of eating food from four groups, Canadians are now encouraged to follow three guidelines on: what to eat regularly, what to avoid, and the importance of cooking and preparing meals at home.Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor unveiled Canada's new food guide on Tuesday at a market in Montreal. It was last revised in 2007.Our decisions on what to eat and how are influenced by a host of factors from taste to tradition, Petitpas Taylor said."Canadians deserve an easy simple source of advice they know they can trust," she said.There's no longer an emphasis on food groups and recommended servings. Instead, Health Canada recommends eating "plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often." For instance, fruits and vegetables make up half the plate on the report's front cover and nuts, beans and seeds are more prominent. "It's not about portion per se, but perhaps about proportion," Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director general of Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Health Products and Food Branch, told reporters.The proportion approach can be incorporated into family meals and snacks, he said.Health Canada said the guide is taught in schools and promoted by health professionals to support the goal of getting Canadians to eat well. It can also influence the foods served and sold at daycares and schools, recreation centres, workplaces and health-care facilities.A two-page snapshot of the new 62-page guide for health professionals and policymakers includes a glass of water as the recommended "drink of choice."The second of three guidelines covers foods and beverages that undermine healthy eating.Consuming foods or beverages with added sugars has been linked to an increased risk of weight gain, excess weight and Type 2 diabetes, according to the guide. The guide's authors also note there are health risks associated with alcohol consumption.The guide was prepared using high-quality scientific reports on food and health, excluding industry-commissioned reports given the potential for conflicts of interest, according to Health Canada.Hutchinson said that when officials scanned the evidence, they were struck by aspects of the food guides in Brazil, Sweden and Belgium. Fresh, unprocessed food is the cornerstone of the Brazilian food guide.Cook moreThe third guideline in Canada's revamped guide focuses on food skills such reminding people to be mindful of your eating habits and to eat meals together."It doesn't need to be complicated folks," Petitpas Taylor said. "It just needs to be nutritious, and, might I dare say, fun."For parents, the most important takeaway is that juice and sugar-sweetened milk are beverages that should be limited and considered treats for themselves and for their kids, said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa. "Overall though, the most important message is cook more, use less boxes, go to restaurants less frequently, not never but less, and remember that food marketers' job is to sell food. It's not to protect your health, and consider that too as there are inevitable criticisms launched by the food industry about this non-industry friendly food guide." The full guide says food skills should be considered within the social, cultural and historical context of Indigenous people."It's quite different from the previous one because it talks about the context of eating," said Jean-Claude Moubarac, a professor in the nutrition department at the University of Montreal who advised on Brazil's food guide. "It goes way beyond just nutrients and food and really adopts this much more holistic approach, which is much more appropriate."Food loaded with sugar, salt and fatMoubarac is pleased with most of the new Canada's Food Guide. He said it makes it clearer to consumers to seek out fresh and minimally processed foods, and avoid highly processed foods. The food industry has three years to introduce new nutrition labels to food products detailing information such as processed sugar content.He said one limitation is those new food labels will only be available in 2022.Availability and accessibility concerns such as finances are another consideration in the guide.The Toronto Foundation for Student Success aims to help students succeed in school by providing services such as meals after school. ​The group's executive director, Catherine Parsonage, said that while the new Food Guide offers a perfect menu, she worries about whether they'll be able to make it."Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grain products are just out of the reach financially," she said. The new guide includes a mobile-friendly version that will be continually updated with resources, such as recipes.Health Canada is also working on healthy eating patterns for health professionals and policymakers with details on the amounts and types of foods to serve at institutions for people in different age groups and life stages.Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor unveils the revamped food guide:

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    A rainbow of lively food illustrations hanging on the classroom wall — that's how most Canadians remember Canada's Food Guide. But behind that brightly coloured document is a long history of political wrangling and industry lobbying — a tradition that continues today as Health Canada prepares to introduce a revised food guide sometime in the next few weeks. The process has so far taken three years, with Health Canada hiring various market research companies to consult with more than 26,000 Canadians. Health Canada has also held briefing sessions with various health associations and industry groups. It seems no detail in the new food guide is too small to be focus-grouped, including whether Canadians prefer a blue or green document and whether they would like to see illustrations or actual photographs of food. > "It should be a science/health document.  And it has been politicized beyond belief." \- Nick Saul, Community Food Centres Canada Meanwhile, Canada's dairy industry is warning that proposed changes to the food guide could harm the dairy sector. And there have been reports of interagency pressure, with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture lobbying Health Canada on behalf of industry. How did a guide to healthy eating become so complicated?  Because since the beginning, Canada's Food Guide has been a political document. In 1942, "Canada's Official Food Rules" were first developed to fatten up Canadian soldiers so they could better fight in the Second World War. "In World War II, that made a lot of sense," said University of Guelph food historian Ian Mosby, who has studied the history of Canada's Food Guide. "It was about producing the next generation of soldiers, the next generation of industrial workers. And the problem at the time was this perceived problem of malnutrition." The food guide has been revised seven times since then, with the current version last being updated in 2007. "It became harder and harder to take things out of the food guide, or to recommend to Canadians to eat less of things that were already in the food guide," said Mosby. "It still reflects some of those ideas — those fossilized ideas of how we should eat." Food industry lobby And over the years, the food industry continued to lobby for more prominence. "The first industry influence was the milk industry calling for higher servings of milk to meet maximum nutritional requirements," said Mosby.  In 1992, Health Canada increased the recommended servings of meat and dairy foods in response to industry pressure. All of that industry lobbying has hurt the food guide's credibility, according to a Health Canada research document prepared as part of the food guide revision. So this time around, Health Canada declared that "during the policy development of the new Canada's Food Guide, officials from Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion will not be meeting with representatives from the food and beverage industry." But there are reports of industry officials lobbying other federal government departments over the revisions. And a few of industry's fears were outlined in a report by the federal agricultural committee, entitled A Food Policy for Canada. "They worry that the revised version of the guide will favour one food group over another, including vegetable-based sources of protein over animal-based ones. The Canadian National Millers Association is concerned that the new food guide may encourage consumers to give up enriched white bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, and other bakery products made with enriched flour." In response to those concerns, the committee officially recommended that during the food guide revision, "... the government work with the agriculture and agri-food sector to ensure alignment and competitiveness for domestic industries." But should Canada's official guidance on a healthy diet even be concerned about the effect on industry?   "It should be a science/health document — and it has been politicized beyond belief," said anti-poverty activist Nick Saul, co-founder of Community Food Centres Canada. Saul, who participated in the online consultations, is concerned about how industry might have influenced the food guide revision process.  "Unhealthy food is the leading risk factor for death and disability. So what we put in our body is extremely important. We have a food system that is very focused on sales and profits, and the food that is often produced through this system is not good for our health." "If the food guide does a good job, certain industries will be upset," said Mosby.  End of the 4 'food groups' Early prototypes sent to focus groups showed that the familiar four "food groups" are gone. Meat and dairy no longer have their own category: They're grouped under "protein foods." Other flash points include fruit juice: Will it remain listed under "vegetables and fruit?" Or will it disappear altogether from the food guide? Health Canada has tried to quell controversy by promising the new food guide will still recommend a variety of food. "As indicated in the proposed guiding principles, the new food guide will continue to recommend Canadians choose a variety of nutritious foods and beverages, which includes lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat," spokesperson Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge said in an email to CBC News. Canadians ignoring food guide's advice The current food guide was introduced 12 years ago — and the familiar rainbow creates strong "brand recognition," according to Health Canada's market research. But although Canadians might recognize Canada's Food Guide, they're not following its advice about what to eat. "Less than half the food choices in the dairy group were 'in line' with food guide guidance," Health Canada's evidence review revealed. "And more than 60 per cent of the choices in the meat and alternatives group failed to match food guide recommendations." The majority of Canadians had "low intakes of vegetables and fruit; milk and alternatives; and whole grains," the report said. "About one-third of total calories came from foods higher in fat, sugar or salt." Most people didn't manage to eat even one serving of dark green or orange vegetable every day — even though the food guide recommends it. Health Canada also found that most Canadians get their nutritional information advice from other sources; Canada's Food Guide ranks fourth, behind the internet, friends and television. Can't address real barriers to healthy eating  Health Canada is also testing lifestyle advice in the draft copies of the food guide. There are suggestions to "be mindful of your eating habits," "enjoy your food," and "cook more often." But societal barriers to healthy eating can't be overcome by a simple document, said Mosby. "It's this idea that people are unhealthy because they don't know how to eat. But there are all these structural reasons why people can't afford healthy food, don't have time to cook healthy food. "The people who the food guide is really aimed at are already struggling to just make ends meet, so the importance placed on the food guide is perhaps misplaced." So when exactly will Canadians get to see the new food guide? "While an exact date for the launch is to be determined, we expect to release the new food guide early in 2019," said Health Canada.

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