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