Centre for Science in the Public Interest

For the Record

For Immediate Release:
July 6, 1999

For more information:
Bill Jeffery
Anne Marie Tassé
(514) 521-6820.

   Health, Citizens Groups Demand Mandatory Nutrition Labelling
(Public Comment Period Ends July 31)

OTTAWA (July 6, 1999) — A coalition of 17 health and citizens groups representing nearly 2 million Canadians has urged Minister of Health Allan Rock to require that all food labels list standardized nutrition information to help consumers improve their diets and health.

   In a letter to the Minister, the Alliance for Food Label Reform, organized by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), urged Health Canada to promptly complete an ongoing consultation on labelling. The Alliance also urged Health Canada to require that manufacturers list, on all foods, the amount of calories, fat, calcium, folacin and 12 other key nutrients, together with information indicating whether a serving of the food is high or low in such nutrients. Health Canada is accepting public comments on the food labelling requirements until July 31st.

   Presently, nutrition labelling is voluntary. Manufacturers do not have to disclose nutrition information unless products make a nutrition claim. If a claim is made, Health Canada requires manufacturers to disclose only limited information on one or more selected nutrients.

   “Health Canada’s current nutrition-labelling system has been a complete failure. About half of all food products provide no nutrition information at all. Some only provide consumers with the ‘good news’ about vitamin content while failing to reveal the ‘bad news’ about fat, cholesterol, or sugar content,” said Bill Jeffery, L.LB., CSPI public policy analyst and Alliance coordinator.

   “Health Canada should put a stop to the misleading use of nutrition information for marketing purposes and, instead, require standardized nutrition labelling for all foods so that consumers could improve their diets and reduce their risk of heart disease and cancer,” said Jeffery.

   “The federal government has been sitting on the fence for too long about whether nutrition labels should be required by law or used at the sole discretion of manufacturers,” stated Alliance member Anne Marie Tassé of Action Réseau Consommateur. “Two million Canadians have now spoken and they are saying ‘It is time for nutrition labelling on all foods.’”

   “Physicians, nutritionists, and public health authorities all agree that Canadians should consume less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and more calcium, iron, fibre and other nutrients. But how can we put that advice into practice if there are no rules requiring companies to provide that information on labels?” said Dr. Claude Renaud of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

   The Alliance for Food Label Reform is urging Health Canada to require that all labels declare the number of calories and the amount of total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, total carbohydrate, fibre, added sugars, protein, iron, calcium, folacin, and vitamins A and C. The disclosures should be based on customary serving sizes, should be printed in an easy-to-read format, and should indicate how the amount of each nutrient contained in a serving of the food fits into a daily diet.

   Similar requirements have been in force in the United States since 1994, where nearly 98% of packaged food labels now provide comprehensive, standardized nutrition information. American manufacturers are not, however, required to provide that kind of information on the labels of products they sell in Canada.

   The Alliance urges consumers to contact Health Canada before July 31st to demand that full nutrition information be required on all food labels. Consumers should write to:

    Minister of Health Allan Rock, M.P., P.C.
    Room 441-S, Centre Block
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
    FAX: (613) 947-4276
    E-MAIL: Rock.A@parl.gc.ca

EDITORS/REPORTERS NOTE: For a copy of the Alliance letter to Minister of Health Allan Rock or for more information, please contact Bill Jeffery at the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (613) 565-2140 or Anne Marie Tassé at Action Réseau Consommateur at (514) 521-6820.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit health-advocacy group with offices in Ottawa and Washington, D.C. It is well-known in the U.S. for leading the drive for mandatory nutrition labelling. CSPI’s Canadian health advocacy is supported by over 135,000 Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding.

CSPI Canada