Scheer says he will review 'ideologically driven' Food Guide if he becomes PM
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the new version of Canada's Food Guide is 'not based on sound science,' will hurt the dairy industry, and would be reviewed if he becomes prime minister.
He made the remarks Wednesday, while speaking at the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual meeting in Saskatoon.
"Absolutely we're going to review that Canada's Food Guide," he said in response to a question from a B.C. dairy producer about his party's food policy.
In January, Canada's Food Guide was updated for the first time in more than a decade. The new version noticeably de-emphasizes dairy consumption, instead stating that water should be Canadians’ "beverage of choice."
Other changes include a decreased focus on meat and a recommendation that plant-based proteins be consumed more often. The guide is taught in schools and is widely used by health professionals.
Scheer accused the new guide of being "ideologically driven by people who have … a bias against certain types of healthy food products" while praising the research that Dairy Farmers of Canada has done to show that milk is healthy.
He told his audience that one of his sons was a picky eater as a young child, leaving him and his wife concerned that the boy would not receive calcium and other essential nutrients – until they introduced him to chocolate milk.
"I truly do believe that chocolate milk saved my son's life," he said.
Dieticians and health experts have largely disavowed Scheer’s comments. Both the Dietitians of Canada and Canadian Digestive Health Foundation came out in support for the Food Guide and added the Conservative leader’s thoughts on the issue are not based on science.
“There was a clear process that was transparent, that involved an evidence review, strong evidence to support the recommendations,” said Kate Comeau with Dieticians of Canada
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in obesity, told The Canadian Press Scheer’s comments were "intensely stupid" and could’ve only been made in an attempt to secure political favour.
Freedhoff added the newest edition of the Food Guide is the best one the country has produced to date and might be the best such document in the world.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Victoria, B.C. the Food Guide is based on scientific research and is meant to serve Canadian families, rather than political interests.
"I'm not surprised the Conservatives don't get that,” he said. “We all remember they declared war on the long-form census. Now they seem to be declaring war on the Canada Food Guide. We're going to continue to focus on evidence and science as a way of making policy and supporting Canadian families in their choices.”
Scheer also vowed, to large applause, never to force food manufacturers to have front-of-package labelling on their products. Health Canada is proposing to require all foods that have high sodium, sugar and/or saturated fat content to include warning labels about those items on the customer-facing side of their packaging.
The agency has suggested that this could come into effect as soon as 2022, but Scheer said he would scrap it if a Conservative government is elected in October.
"I can make all those decisions myself. I don't need the government to come along and put a big red sticker on something just because somebody in an office thought that I shouldn't be eating that," he said.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor described Scheer's comments on the Food Guide as "ridiculous."
"Health policy should be based on evidence not industry, and meet the needs of all Canadians," she said in a statement.
With files from The Canadian Press and Ben Cousins