I asked my doctor recently if I needed a B vitamin supplement. They seem to be all the rage. He checked my records and said no, as long as I’m eating beef, I’m OK.
So for this and other reasons, I was particularly interested in the proposed front-of-packaging (FOP) label warning from Health Canada, about limiting your ground meat consumption.
This warning and others like it, scheduled to come into effect in 2026, relate to the fact that Canadians get an estimated half of their calories from nutrient-poor ultra-processed foods.
But that doesn’t describe ground beef or pork.
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Labels will reportedly be affixed to most foods that exceed 15 per cent of an adult’s recommended daily consumption of saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
Some foods that are naturally high in sugar, such as unsweetened fruit, however, will reportedly be exempt from the labelling, along with dairy and eggs.
In a news release, Health Canada admits not all ground meat will require the FOP nutrition symbol.
“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),” it says.
But the beef sector in particular is concerned. It’s asking Canadians to sign a petition telling Health Canada to back off.
It notes that ground beef is a nutrient-dense protein that contributes iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and other essential nutrients.
It also fears all ground beef will be vilified… followed by all beef, ground or not.
Producers say labelling sends a negative message to Canada’s beef importers. If this FOP proposal goes through, Canada will be the only country with this kind of warning.
Imagine the hyperbole from competitors: “Even the Canadian government doesn’t believe its own beef is safe to eat. So why would you buy it?”
The Alberta government – which isn’t a fan of Ottawa at the best of times – says the federal government has once again taken a decidedly central-Canadian, parochial view of the so-called danger.
“The federal government made this decision without consulting the provinces even though we have equivalent expertise in food science and nutrition,” Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping told the Calgary Herald.
I’d like to think Ottawa is the apex of health care knowledge in this country, but that’s an arbitrary perspective too. And in this case, who knows if even the most engaging discussions between Health Canada and beef producers would have produced an outcome that satisfied both sides.
But what’s certain is that we have another clear case of the chronic divide in this country’s agriculture and health sector, the same kind we saw when Ottawa released its latest food guide taking a swipe at red meat.
Farmers here should not have to be on constant alert about how the commodities they produce, and the way they produce them, are being viewed and assessed by their own government.
Our household is aware of the saturated fat issue, in general. We check labels and try to avoid food high in fat. We eat lean and extra lean ground meat, we’ll continue doing so, and we’ll hope Health Canada sees an opportunity to better communicate its position.