Are Canada’s proposed nutrition label changes sweet enough?

Comparing products can be a challenge because serving sizes vary

By Simone Jennings, RD

Community Nutrition Program with Interior Health

Most people I talk to say they usually read food nutrition labels, but often find the information confusing.

Current labels typically require a keen attention to detail and a bit of time to navigate the information.

Comparing products can be a challenge because serving sizes vary.

Most people say they look at sugar on the label but do not know how much is too much. “What does 24 grams of sugar really mean?”

Well, Health Canada is ready to change things up. They are in the process of revising the way information is shown on nutrition labels for packaged food.

The aim is to make them easier to read and more relevant to peoples lives.

For example, one of the recommendations is that serving sizes be consistent for similar foods, and better reflect the amount a person typically eats.

Of the numerous proposed changes, I think the recommendations for sugar are worth paying attention to. One proposed change is to list the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Table.

This is in addition to listing the total quantity of sugar.

Currently, only total sugar is listed, which includes naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.

Providing the amount of added sugars will help people make healthier choices. Typically foods that are higher in added sugars are more processed and less healthy.

As well, all added sugars will be grouped together on the ingredients list, so it will be easier to see the all the different forms of sugar in a product.

Emphasizing added sugar is important as excess consumption is linked to childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

However, Health Canada is not recommending a maximum limit for added sugars specifically. Instead they suggest a target of 100 grams for maximum total sugar consumption (natural sourced sugars plus added sugars). They believe sugar is sugar, whether it’s from an apple or a cookie.

Many experts say this doesn’t go far enough and a maximum intake should be set for added sugar as it is the main culprit for health problems.

Personally, I agree that consumers need to see a maximum target for added sugars,  so I gave my feedback through Health Canada’s online consultation.

If you want to participate in the consultation you can give feedback by answering a series of questions online.

Visit the Nutrition Labelling Consultation page on the Health Canada website. Here you will also see a summary of all the proposed changes (I only touched on a few).