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Canada’s government has launched a consultation process on its plans to flag up unhealthy ingredients in food products.

It plans to introduce a front-of-package symbol which will identify high levels of sodium, sugars, or saturated fat but a body representing the country’s dairy industry has expressed some concerns about the plan.

Minister of health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, said Health Canada will launch consultations on regulations surrounding the plan. The government points out that Canadians are struggling with high rates of chronic diseases with two in five Canadian adults report having one of the most common chronic diseases, which include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. 

It said it wants to make it easier for Canadians to make healthier food choices to avoid ingredients which are linked to those diseases and suggests the symbol will complement the nutrition facts table on the back or side of the food package.

Minister Taylor said: “The consultations launched today are geared towards helping Canadians make healthier food choices. Identifying foods that are high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat is not always easy, and this front-of-package symbol will make it clearer while shopping for groceries.”

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Canadian dairy industry body Dairy Farmers of Canada said it will will participate in front-of-package consultations but wants assurances that this type of warning labelling will not simply deter consumers from the products themselves.

It said it is pleased the government has recognised the nutritional benefits of whole milk but added “as currently proposed, many other dairy products, rich in essential nutrients, will be stigmatised by a warning label that may confuse consumers as to which products are healthy and which are not”.

Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said: “The intent of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy is to help consumers make informed healthier choices. The best way to do this is to drive them to the nutrition facts table. 

“What assurances can Health Canada give that this type of warning labelling will not simply deter consumers from the products themselves?

“This approach runs the risk of alarming consumers, and ultimately preventing them from learning more about the nutritional benefits of a food.”