2021 GPC Policy and Motion Development Process
Editing and refining policy, amendment, and directive ideas
G21-P029 Science-based Food Policy: Unequivocal Support of the 2019 Canada Food Guide
The GPC fully and unequivocally supports the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide 2019, particularly its emphases on consuming largely plant-based diets; addressing issues of nutritious food access and food insecurity affecting low-income, immigrant, and Indigenous people; increasing food skills and food literacy; and considering the environmental impacts of food choices.
This initiative will bring the party’s food and health policies in line with evidence-based nutrition, correct the previous platform’s statement in support of dairy, and will further commitments to environmental sustainability, to social justice in general, and to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in particular.
Adopting this initiative will strengthen the Green Party of Canada’s commitment to science-based policy, and will substantively further its commitment to supporting the health of Canadians; to decreasing healthcare costs; to alleviating inequities facing low-income, immigrant, and Indigenous people; and to reducing environmental degradation.
Supporting Comments from Submitter:
Effects of diet on health are significant. Noncommunicable chronic diseases, or NCDs (e.g., cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity), are the cause of approximately 63% of deaths worldwide, according the World Health Organization (2). NCDs are in large part caused by several avoidable lifestyle risk factors including inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco exposure, poverty, and alcohol use (3). From 2013-2016, three out of five Canadians over the age of 20 lived with an NCD, with four out of five Canadians at risk (3). Over 150,000 Canadians die annually from NCDs, accounting for 65% of all deaths in Canada (3), not to mention the 800,000 cumulative years of disability caused annually (2). There is clear evidence that dietary factors are the greatest modifiable risk factor for NCDs (3). The leading risk for death and the second leading risk for disability in Canada is unhealthy eating (2).
The effects of dairy on NCDs (lifestyle diseases/diseases of affluence) are clear. Consumption of dairy is implicated in increased mortality in women; several forms of cancer, including prostate cancer and ovarian cancer; in triggering of type 1 diabetes; and in increased cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis (4, 5).
Health-related costs of NCDs are high. NCDs cost Canada an estimated $190 billion/year — an amount that is growing annually as the morbidity, comorbidity and mortality of NCDs are increasing (2). More specifically, unhealthy eating in Canada costs an estimated $13.8 billion/year, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study (2). The unhealthy eating patterns in Canadians which are disease-causing include consumption at unhealthy levels of processed foods high in calories, salt, sugar and saturated fat; consumption at unhealthy levels of meat, eggs, and dairy products; and insufficient consumption of whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables (3). All these are addressed in the 2019 Canada Food Guide.
The effectiveness of multipronged government policies on health are proven. Examples of effective government food policies include dietary guidelines, healthy-eating advertising campaigns, subsidy programs, and support to low-income citizens (2). Dietary guidelines are effective in shaping consumer behaviour both directly and by influencing industry through reformulation and production trends, which tend to have longer term consumer health effects as part of a multipronged government approach (3). Multipronged government approaches to improve health have effectively shaped consumer behaviour in the past, as was seen with tobacco use (3). Canada’s Food Guide 2019 is one aspect of a national multi-pronged approach that includes a Canada Food Policy and oversight by the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council, which includes representation from Indigenous organizations and communities.
Dietary guidelines can promote food and health equity. Health policy and dietary guidelines are significant factors in racialized food inequities and the social determinants of health. In 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution recognizing that lactose intolerance is common among racialized Americans. The National Institutes of Health estimates 95% of Asian Americans, 60-80% of African Americans, 80-100% of Native Americans, and 50-80% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant.5 As a result, the American Medical Association called on the USDA and HHS to acknowledge the prevalence of lactose intolerance among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, and to clearly indicate dairy products as optional in the Dietary Guidelines (1).
Similarly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health has confirmed that African American adults are 60% more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, 20% more likely to die from heart disease, three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes, and that they have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers5. Hispanic/Latino adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician (5). In the U.S., African Americans are about three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than are whites. African American children have a death rate 10 times that of non-Hispanic white children and are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital (5). Dairy consumption has been shown to raise the risk for asthma and worsen symptoms (5). In another study, children with asthma who were taken off of dairy and eggs for 8 weeks experienced a 22% improvement in peak expiratory flow rate (a measure of how fast the children were able to exhale) over children in the control group (continuing to consume eggs and dairy), who experienced a 0.6% decrease.
In June of 2020, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC) declared that high-fat dairy is associated with type 2 diabetes. The DGAC also indicated that saturated fat should be avoided to prevent heart disease. The top sources of saturated fat in a western diet are dairy and meat products. Animal products are also the source of dietary cholesterol. Scientific evidence also suggests that milk and other dairy products increase the risk of asthma; of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers; of cognitive decline; and of early death.
1. American Medical Association. Culturally Responsive Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines D-440.978.
2. Bacon, S. L., Campbell, N., Raine, K. D., Tsuyuki, R. T., Khan, N. A., Arango, M., & Kaczorowski, J. (2019). Canada's new Healthy Eating Strategy: Implications for health care professionals and a call to action. Canadian pharmacists journal : CPJ = Revue des pharmaciens du Canada : RPC, 152(3), 151–157.
3. Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada. Submission to SOCI regarding Bill S-228, An Act to Amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children). June 13, 2017.
4. Lanou, A.J. Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Counterpoint. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009;89:1638S-42S.
5. Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Doctors Call on Dietary Guidelines to Ditch Dairy to Fight Racial Health Disparities.” July 9, 2020.
Ecological Wisdom, Sustainability, Social Justice.
Relation to Existing Policy:
Add to current GPC policy 1998 - Agriculture.
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