In the coming weeks you might find a new label on the front of your grocery store ground meats.
Health Canada says a front of package nutrition symbol will soon be required on foods that contain 15 per cent of your recommended daily intake of sodium, sugars and saturated fat.
There are many products that will be exempt from the new rule such as raw whole cuts of meat but ground meats which are high in saturated fats are not exempt and its left some within the meat industry scratching their head.
Ryder Lee, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, says he’s not sure why a single ingredient product like ground beef is being singled out.
“This would make Canada the only country in the world where a single ingredient product had this warning. It makes it make less and less sense and we think the government and minister of health should reconsider,” said Lee
Health Canada says the intent of the new label is not to convey a warning, but to help reduce risks to health by providing consumers with quick and easy-to-use information on foods high in sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat.
Professor of food distribution at Dalhousie University, Sylvain Charlebois, says 50 per cent of the beef consumed in Canada is ground.
With inflation a major issue at the grocery store, ground meat prices have remained more stable than others.
Charlebois feels ground meats should be exempt from the new label.
“When you think about protein affordability you’re basically discouraging Canadians from eating these products that are still relatively affordable compared to other cuts. You have to wonder whether or not its the right time to do this,” said the professor.
Charlebois recognizes that these labels can be a motivating factor for industry to innovate, forcing companies making highly-processed foods to research and make better products that wouldn’t have too much sodium, fats and sugar.
“But what do you with ground beef? What do you do with ground pork? There is nothing else you can do, it’s a natural single-ingredient product,” said Charlebois.
Health Canada said exemptions from the front of package label occur when the food is already exempt from displaying a nutrition facts table, the information in the symbol would be redundant and if there is evidence that the food provides a protective effect on health.
“Ground beef is one of the most affordable nutrient packed products that can help with iron deficiency, zinc, vitamin B12 — oh and by the way, a great source of protein,” said Lee regarding the protective health effects of ground beef.
Exempt items include include fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat, sugars, or sodium; whole and 2 per cent milk; and most vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil.