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(Canada Beef Inc.)
June 10, 2022 Checking in with ABP

Here’s what’s up with ground beef labelling in Canada

Editor’s Note: Alberta Beef Producers reached out to Health Canada to join us on The Bovine in answering a list of supplied questions. Health Canada responded saying they “do not have an expert to provide for an interview on this issue at this time.”

The issue

In October 2016, Health Canada launched the Healthy Eating Strategy to “improve the food environment and help make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians.”

Part of that strategy included front-of-package (FOP) labelling, which will see a symbol on foods high in sodium, sugars, and/or saturated fat.

According to Health Canada, the intent of FOP labelling “is not to convey a warning, rather it aims to help reduce risks to health by providing consumers with quick and easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat.”

Despite a list of exemptions that include whole foods like whole cuts of meat, ground beef is set to be labelled.

Exemptions

According to the regulatory proposal published in Canada Gazette, Part I, exemptions occur when:

  • the food is already exempt from displaying a nutrition facts table. Examples include: raw whole cuts of meat (not including ground meats) and foods sold at farmers’ markets
  • there is evidence that the food provides a protective effect on health. Examples include fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat, sugars, or sodium; whole and 2% milk; and most vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil
  • the information in the symbol would be redundant. Examples include sweetening agents such as table sugar, honey and maple syrup, as well as table and flavoured salts (e.g. garlic salt, onion salt)

“Not all ground meat will require the FOP nutrition symbol,” reads a Health Canada release. “There are options within the ground meat category that are lower in saturated fat and would not be required to carry the FOP symbol (e.g., extra lean ground pork or extra lean ground beef with 5% or less of its weight as total fat).”

The concerns

Proponents of whole foods like ground beef have a number of concerns, from minimizing the nutritional benefits with an oversimplified label to the possibility of trade implications.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois writes that part of the plan is a “headscratcher.”

“…in a few months from now, ground beef and pork, two unprocessed, natural and affordable animal protein sources, which many consumers eat every day, will be labelled as having too much saturated fat.”

Overlooking nutrient density

Could a warning label have people turn away from a highly nutrient-dense and affordable source of protein?

At only 130 calories (1 portion cooked extra lean ground beef), meat is one of nature’s most dense protein foods. In comparison, the same amount of protein (18 g) would cost you 270 calories for black beans, 380 calories for hummus and almost 500 calories for almonds!

Canada Beef Inc.

Ground beef is made up of one simple ingredient — minced beef.

It contains key nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and protein. According to Canada Beef Inc., not only does ground beef help build healthy bones and teeth, it’s a source of energy, resilience, and brain power.

Sending a message to trade partners

In a recent statement, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association shared that “Canada will be the only jurisdiction in the world placing a health warning label on its ground beef.”

The worry there is for potential trade implications. Approximately half of Canada’s beef is exported — what will our trading partners think of warning symbol?

Moving forward

CCA is strongly urging Health Canada to exempt all classes of ground beef from FOP regulations, and is inviting everyone opposing warning labels on ground beef, to sign up online.

We need to ensure Canadians continue to have access to affordable, accessible and whole nutritious foods, like ground beef.

“Farmers and ranchers produce a high-quality, accessible, affordable, and nutritious protein,” says Reg Schellenberg, CCA President. “It is a food source that Canadians rely on to feed their families. Health Canada is not sending the right message to consumers.”

Writes Charlebois: “[Ground pork and ground beef] quite simply need to be exempt from new front-of-package labelling rules.”

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