Food for thought

Con­sul­ta­tions held in Charlottetown as fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to gather in­for­ma­tion on a new food pol­icy

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY TER­RENCE MCEACH­ERN Ter­rence.McEach­ern@the­guardian.pe.ca @Ter­ry_mcn

P.E.I. chef and restau­rant owner Michael Smith wasn’t minc­ing words on Wed­nes­day about the need for a food pol­icy in Canada.

“This is a time for un­der­stand­ing the sever­ity and se­ri­ous­ness of this is­sue. We need to get con­trol of what Cana­di­ans eat each and ev­ery day,” said Smith, one of the speak­ers at the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s one-day con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion in Charlottetown for a new na­tional food pol­icy.

In par­tic­u­lar, Smith told the food in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives from At­lantic Canada who at­tended the ses­sion, the “so­cial ex­per­i­ment” with pro­cessed food is over and “the re­sults are, frankly, sick Cana­di­ans.”

An on­line sur­vey to de­velop A Food Pol­icy in Canada be­gan on May 29 and con­cludes in late Au­gust. In-per­son con­sul­ta­tions be­gan at a sum­mit on June 22-23 in Ottawa. The pol­icy has four goals; to in­crease ac­cess to af­ford­able food; im­prove health and food safe; con­serve soil, wa­ter and air and grow more high-qual­ity food.

Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food and Cardi­gan MP Lawrence MacAulay said the pol­icy will help Cana­di­ans make bet­ter food choices.

The pol­icy is ex­pected to be ready in early 2018 af­ter the in­for­ma­tion from con­sul­ta­tions is gath­ered.

“Food is at the heart of any com­mu­nity. Food has deep roots in Canada’s his­tory,” MacAulay said. “We need to de­velop a food pol­icy that con­sid­ers all as­pects of the food sys­tem — from pro­cess­ing, dis­tri­bu­tion and con­sump­tion.”

Smith raised con­cerns about the role of “Big Food Inc.” in the con­sump­tion of salt, trans fats and “the true de­mon” — sugar.

“Added sugar, that’s what’s killing Cana­di­ans. We need to tell it like it is,” he said.

Smith said Canada has cre­ated a sys­tem based on “cheap food.”

“That has al­lowed Big Food Inc. to come along and just over­whelm us with pro­cessed food. We’ve cre­ated a sys­tem that ex­ter­nal­izes the true cost of food. We’re hold­ing the true cost of food in our health-care sys­tem. We need to do a bet­ter job.”

Smith also noted that ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied food needs to be trans­par­ent as well as part of the so­lu­tion given the ex­pected de­mand for food glob­ally as the pop­u­la­tion in­creases.

With re­spect to P.E.I., Smith said not a lot needs to be changed.

“We are Canada’s Food Is­land,” he said, but added that Is­lan­ders could use more food ed­u­ca­tion and “tell it like it is.”

Con­sul­ta­tions on the food pol­icy are be­ing held in Que­bec next week. From there, the con­sul­ta­tions move to other Cana­dian cities, in­clud­ing Yel­lowknife and Van­cou­ver. The con­sul­ta­tions are ex­pected to wrap up in Win­nipeg at the end of Septem­ber.

TER­RENCE MCEACH­ERN/THE GUARDIAN

Chef Michael Smith, left, and Cardi­gan MP Lawrence MacAulay meet with food in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Rodd Roy­alty Ho­tel in Charlottetown as part of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s con­sul­ta­tions to de­velop a new food pol­icy.

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