In the United States, we hear that "liberals" want to use government to help consumers with improving the food supply and "conservatives" don't want the government to help.
So what happens when a conservative government takes steps to improve the food supply?
Health Canada is taking a similar approach to improving the nutrition label in an announcement this week from Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
Added sugars is a big concern of Health Canada, similar to the FDA in the United States. The proposal allows for an identifier for added sugars on the new proposed label.
There are two distinct differences: Health Canada wants added sugars to include fruit juice concentrates and other "naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component."
Fruit sugar and milk sugar are separate in the U.S. proposal. Eating actual fruit vs. consuming fruit juice makes a difference, and the Canadian rules reflect this reality.
Health Canada also wants to group all sugars in the list of ingredients. I do like the idea of listing ingredients in order, but am intrigued by the idea of collecting all the sugars in a list to quickly identify them on the label.
For more on the full list of changes for the Canada nutrition labels, click here.
Health Canada is also scoring points for trying to get rid of antibiotics for growth.
The proposal does have significant loopholes, but the effort is appreciated. Antibiotics can still be used for disease prevention.
In Canada outside Quebec, farmers don't need a prescription to buy most antibiotics. Also farmers can import almost any antibiotics, even if that law was intended to help people, not animals.
As a contrast, the Netherlands are reportedly acting to reduce the routine use of antibiotics on livestock "without any negative effects on production rates or profits."
The Netherlands is the world's 2nd-largest exporter of food and is Europe's biggest meat exporter.
North America is tremendously behind Europe in how to properly handle a food supply. These Canadian changes, if they happen as proposed, won't make a huge dent in the quality of the food supply or knowledge about what we are eating.
The difference in Canada vs. the United States?
In Canada, the effort to change the nutritional label isn't a political battle. There can be criticism with the new labels, either being too much change or not enough change. The battlelines aren't drawn between red and blue. Canada has red (Liberals), blue (Conservatives), and orange (NDP), but even if the changes weren't coming from a Conservative government, the issues still wouldn't be political.
In Canada, improving knowledge about what you are eating isn't "telling you what to eat" or "making it illegal to eat that food." These are rules that improve lives for the consumer.
Like the FDA, Health Canada has a comment period for people to submit their concerns and praise. We will be highly curious to find whether the changes go through faster and more of the changes will be kept in the legislation.
Canada has one distinction from the United States in that regard. The official opposition (NDP) can weigh in on legislation, but with a majority government, most of these proposals will stand as is.
The FDA is a weak agency in the United States, and the GOP controls the House of Representatives, so the proposed U.S. changes will be weaker and take longer to implement.
We can have a hearty debate about how and how fast to improve the food supply and people's knowledge about what they eat. The right-wing in the United States is against change and discussion about said change.
Labeling people who want to make things better as "fascist" and other buzzwords doesn't encourage dialogue but is trying to get the conversation to stop. We need more dialogue, not less. And since we need inspiration, we can something from the Canadians.