What you get isn’t always what you see: The petition for trustworthy food labels

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Have you ever picked up a food item, turned it around to look at the nutrition label, and wondered what exactly the breakdown of percentages really meant? For those who aren’t nutritionists or health care professionals, the distinction between what’s healthy and what’s not can be rather ambiguous.

Recently, the topic of added sugars has been under the scope of health advocates who are concerned about the lack of clarity of added sugar levels on nutrition labels. After the Minister of Health chose to refrain from having “added sugars” on the nutrient panels of food labels, some dieticians have responded in opposition.

Emma Train, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, chose to do something about the Minister’s decision. She has organized a petition for Canadians who are in favour of listing added sugars on nutrient panels to have their say.

One solid point that Emma brings up is: “There is strong evidence that an intake of free sugars less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of being overweight, obesity, and tooth decay.” If more Canadians know exactly how much sugar a product they are eating has, they are more likely to choose healthier options, which will result in less health complications in the long run. A better understanding of food products’ nutritional content is essential to the welfare of Canadians, and having explicit nutritional information listed on products is a good step towards more impartial truths on food labels.

Currently the Nutrition Facts table includes total sugar, but naturally-occurring sugar is not distinguished from free sugar or added sugar. Naturally-occurring sugar would be found in fruits, dairy and some vegetables and grains. Free sugar is inclusive of added sugar and also includes sugars added to a product that are “free from” fiber. Free sugar is the sugar found in honey and fruit juices etc. If added or free sugars are not listed on food labels it will be very difficult for Canadians to ascertain how much sugar is added to their food. The ability to compare added or free sugar in food products will allow consumers to make educated choices for their health.

Clearly defining the amount of added OR free sugars in food products will allow Canadians to understand that not only sweets contain sugar, but everyday items such as tomato sauce, savoury foods, soups and sauces also contain added sugar.

If you believe that food labels should be clear, understandable, and straight forward,

consider signing the petition here. By May 11th of this year, Emma is aiming to have 100,000 signatures on the petition. Please be sure to share the petition with others.

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