Creating Healthier Food Environments in Canada: Current Policies and Priority Actions
Food Epi Canada was conducted this year for the first time with the results just released. The research was led by Dr Lana Vanderlee and Dr. Mary L’Abbe and the reports are available here.
A panel of over 70 non-governmental experts from across Canada comprehensively assessed Canadian food environment policies compared to international benchmarks of current best practices. The experts prioritized recommendations for action to improve the food environment and provide the necessary infrastructure support. The assessment and recommended actions were undertaken for the federal government and each participating province and territory.
The federal government were doing particularly well in the following areas: nutrition information on food labels, reducing GST on basic groceries, leadership, governance, and monitoring NCD prevalence and risk factors, and areas with little implementation were: menu labelling, taxing unhealthy foods, food provision policies in government-funded settings, food retail, and health-in-all-policies approaches.
Prioritized federal policy actions relate to advertising to children, targets for food composition (sodium, sugar, saturated fat), and an excise tax on sugary drinks, as well as infrastructure supports including setting population-level intake targets for nutrients of concern and vegetables and fruit, implementing a more comprehensive food guide, and monitoring and revising Canada’s current Healthy Eating Strategy to ensure it extends beyond election cycles. For provincial and territorial governments, a set of coordinated policies were recommended that included universal programs to provide fruits and vegetables in schools, and strengthening nutrition standards in settings where children gather and public sector settings. The researchers concluded that while governments in Canada were meeting some global good practices, leadership from all levels of government and coordinated, ongoing action is needed to support healthier food environments and healthier Canadian diets.