Canada's new Food Guide to Healthy Eating will take into account the country's multicultural community, reports Jess Halliday, but supplements and fortified foods are not expected to put in an appearance.
"The multicultural make-up of Canada is rich and diverse. As such, revisions to Canada's Food Guide will need to embrace the variety and depth of foods available to Canadians," said health minister Ujjal Dosanjh yesterday.
"By making sure the new Food Guide is relevant to people of all cultures, we not only ensure its inclusiveness but we also provide all Canadians with a vast array of food selections that broadens and enhances their healthy food choices."
The 2001 census set the total population of Canada at 29.64 million. The most populous ethnic groups were Canadian (11.68 million), English (5.98 million), French (4.67 million), Scottish (4.16 million), Irish (3.82 million), German (2.74 million), Italian (1.27 million), Chinese (1.04 million), Ukrainian (1.07 million) and North American Indian (1 million). Some respondents claimed more than one ethinic origin.
The most recent Food Guide was published in 1992. A review carried out by the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion in 2002 found that although it remains a useful tool, certain changes have taken place in the Canadian diet over the past decade, making it necessary to reconsider the advice.
Health Canada spokesperson Carole Saindon told NutraIngredients-USA.com that the review showed all Canadians are eating more foods than had previously been linked to specific cultural groups.
Although consultation is still in progress as to the precise nature of the changes, Saindon said that for example the Chinese vegetable bok choi could be mentioned as an alternative source of nutrients to carrots.
She said that the role dietary supplements may play in a healthy diet has not so far come up in consultations. Advocates say supplements can help bridge the nutrition gap between advice and what consumers can reasonably be expected to achieve through diet alone.
Other interesting trends brought to light by the review include an increase in the consumption of almost all major food commodity groups on a per capita basis. Tea saw the greatest increase, of almost 50 percent.
Notable exceptions to this trend were: meat, which fell by almost 5 percent to 27 kg per person; fluid milk, which decreased by 9 percent overall (although consumption of 'skim' and '1% milk' increased); and vegetable juice, which fell from almost 2 liters to just over 1 liter per person.
When assessing consumers' awareness of the Food Guide, the review found vegetables and fruit to be closely associated with perceptions of healthy eating but that grain and milk products tended to be overlooked. Consistent with the data indicating reduced meat consumption, some of the participants questioned in the survey said they were eating less red meat and more fish and chicken as part of a healthy diet.
Health Canada is inviting public input into the new Food Guide at a series of meetings that are being held throughout the country this month.
Across the border, the new food guidance system for Americans dubbed MyPyramid was released by the USDA last month.
Dietary supplements were omitted from MyPyramid despite industry calls for them to be included. But the USDA did concede that fortified foods could be advantageous for people who have an aversion to or cannot consume certain important food groups.
Although it advocates a personalized approach to healthy eating, MyPyramid and its accompanying literature does not contain any reference to the different nutritional needs of people from different cultures.
In the 2000 US census 75.1 percent of Americans reported themselves to be white, 12.5 percent said they were Hispanic/Latino, 2.1 percent Black or African American, 3.6 percent Asian, 0.9 percent American Indian or Alaska Native and 5.5 percent some other race.