Food fraud

Natalie Whittle at the Financial Times – The fight against food fraud:

“We picked up reports of people getting ill from eating cumin in Canada. They were getting ill from anaphylactic shock from eating curries.” The cumin had been cut with peanut shells. Small retail businesses selling spices in larger quantities may buy direct from their countries of origin — which provides another opening for organised criminals to penetrate supply chains that are not as heavily regulated, says Elliott.

I had previously thought that the cumin incident was due to poor packaging, storage conditions or some other mishandling of the food. I hadn’t thought that it could be due to fraud. This is unsettling.

Pig farming and transportation

On CBC’s The Sunday Edition – Is it a crime to give a pig water on a hot day?:

When the thermometer hit 28 degrees last summer, Anita Krajnc pushed a water bottle into a truck-load of pigs on their way to slaughter. Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief. Public outrage and concern over animal welfare blew up, and Krajnc became an international hero.

Speaking of sustainability

Georgina Gustin at The Plate – Another Nation Trims Meat from Diet Advice:

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre says  it is recommending people eat just two servings of meat a week, setting an explicit limit on meat consumption for the first time. The recommendations come five years after a government panel weighed the ecological impact of the average Dutch person’s diet, concluding last year that eating less meat is better for human and environmental health.

Something I can agree with. Unfortunately the following happened:

The idea that environmental considerations should make their way into nutrition advice has been especially controversial with the livestock industry, which fought against their inclusion. The American livestock industry, for one, successfully argued that sustainability—or specific recommendations to limit meat consumption because of the environmental toll of meat production—get knocked out of the final Dietary Guidelines.

Sustainability and the Senate report on Obesity in Canada

Good point on sustainability from Food Secure Canada:

Yet what is missing from the Senate’s report is the integration of a key tenet of Brazil’s guidelines – healthy diets are not only about food choices, but also derive from socially and environmentally sustainable food systems. Since our health is intimately linked to the environment, we need to improve the sustainability of food systems and redefine healthy food as going beyond its nutritional qualities alone.

I need to take a look at the new Brazil food guide.

Recommended daily intake of sugars

After reading about the recently released 2015 USDA dietary guidelines (and the controversy surrounding it) I was wondering what the recommended maximum daily intake of sugars was, given those guidelines don’t state a maximum, and neither does the Canada Food Guide. Here’s what I’ve found.

The WHO recommends a daily limit of about 13 teaspoons of added sugars per day

The WHO published guidelines in 2015 on Sugars intake for adults and children, which recommended the following:

  • WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars throughout the lifecourse (strong recommendation*)
  • In bnoth adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake (strong recommendation*)
  • WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake (conditional recommendation**)

Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

* Strong recommendations indicate that "the desirable effects of adherence to the recommendation outweigh the undesirable consequences". This means that "the recommendation can be adopted as policy in most situations.
** Conditional recommendations are made when there is less certainty "about the balance between the benefits and harms or disadvantages of implementing a recommendation". This means that "policy-making will require substantial debate and involvement of various stakeholders" for translating them into action.

Free sugars do not include the sugars already present in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables.

For a 2000 calorie diet, they recommend that 200 calories come from these free sugars. What is 200 calories in terms of, say, granulated sugar? Based on the USDA Nutrient Database, granulated sugar has 387 calories per 100 g of sugar. So 200 calories is 51.7 g of sugar. Put another way, that’s just about 13 teaspoons of sugar per day (at 4 g per teaspoon of sugar).

As stated above, they further propose that the daily limit be reduced to 5% of total energy intake, so going back to our 2000 calorie diet, that’s 100 calories, or 25.8 g, or 6.5 teaspoons per day. The caveat is that there is less certainty about the benefits from recommending an even lower sugar intake amount.

Health Canada’s proposed daily sugar limit

Currently, Canada’s Food guide doesn’t give a limit for sugar. In June 2015, Health Canada published a set of proposed regulations to amend the nutrition labeling of food products (among other labeling changes). In the proposed regulations, a sugar limit is given:

A DV of 100 g is being proposed for sugar, and the declaration of the % DV for sugar in the NFt would be mandated for all foods. Consumers would be able to use the % DV to determine whether a food contains a lot or a little sugar (as indicated by the rule of thumb footnote), and as a result adjust or limit their sugar intake.

The “% DV” is the daily value amount, based on the recommended daily intake chart (near the bottom of the page).

The proposed 100 g of sugar recommended here is about double the recommendation from the WHO; however, that’s total daily intake, from added and natural sugars. The WHO recommendations only dictate limits on added sugars to foods.

Proposed sugar limit and % DV

I advocate for a 50 g daily intake limit for added sugars. The nutrition labeling should also reflect this 50 g limit and corresponding % DV for sugar. Added sugars are more of a concern than naturally occurring sugars in vegetables and fruit, and nutrition labeling is generally on processed foods – where the added sugars are. However, it should be clear in the guidance documentation that overall limit is 100 g of sugar per day.

On the culture of meat

Karen Coates at The Human Palate blog – Meat Culture:

“Do you eat meat every day?” I asked.

“No!” the kids shouted, and their teacher elaborated: A few times each year their communities have traditional cultural ceremonies that serve large quantities of meat. But it’s not a common part of the diet—although some children live in an orphanage, where they are fed meat two or three times a week.

We in the western world consume a lot of meat, and it’s the centrepiece of most meals – just take a look at the vegetables found in many restaurants’ menu items and compare it to the meats. In other parts of the world, meat is very scarce and eaten on rare occasions. While many  nutrients are more readily absorbed from meat sources than vegetable sources we certainly don’t need to eat as much meat as we currently do for health reasons.

What are good eggs?

Marketplace –  Egg crackdown: are ethical eggs actually better?:

“Nest-laid,” “free-run,” “free-range” and “organic”: Egg cartons hold a lot of big promises about what’s inside and how they got there. We test the marketing on supermarket eggs, and ask companies if we can see for ourselves what the labels really mean for chickens and for you.

Hardly scientific, but it does show that people have many different tastes and considerations when choosing eggs.

What makes for good eggs? For that matter, what about good meats, good fruits and vegetables, and good processed foods?

Teaching children the enjoyment of food

Helene Skantzikas at Elevating Child Care – Secrets to Enjoying Healthy Meals With Our Children:

When we are nervous or afraid that our children won’t eat, or not eat enough, we tend to be inconsistent with our boundaries.  It’s the same dynamic as the fear of a tantrum. We cannot set consistent boundaries that make our children feel safe if we are trying to avoid tantrums and strong feelings at all costs. Avoiding the tantrum suddenly takes priority over self-care, and that often ends in a lot of frustration on both ends.

Similarly, if “getting the child to eat” takes priority over self-care and the boundaries necessary to the family enjoying a meal, frustration ensues for the parent, as well as negative associations to mealtime (stress, power struggle, fuzzy boundaries, testing) for the child as a result.