Enact food policies to curb chronic disease and health inequity

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Unhealthy dietary patterns are a leading risk factor for death and disability in Canada. Best available evidence supports a diet rich in whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein foods, with an emphasis on protein foods that are plant-based such as nuts, seeds and legumes, and moderate amounts of animal-based protein sources such as fish, poultry, meats and low-fat dairy products. Processed foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated and trans fats should be avoided. Canada’s new Food Guide should provide a foundation for healthy eating. However, it is difficult for many Canadians to eat healthy within the current food environment. There is a need to create food environments through public policies that support Canadians in maintaining healthy diets where they live, learn, work, and play. Such policies must include those that ensure:

  • nutritious foods and beverages are accessible and affordable to all Canadians, including those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and those who live in remote and/or northern communities;
  • dietary inequities decline over time;
  • children are protected from the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages;
  • children have access to nutritious foods and beverages where they learn and play;
  • processed foods and beverages high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats have front-of-package warning labels;
  • public funds are not spent on unhealthy foods and beverages;
  • the health and societal costs associated with unhealthy foods and beverages are recovered through taxation of unhealthy foods;
  • all foods, including those obtained in restaurants, are labeled so it is easy to understand if they are healthy or unhealthy;
  •  ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the quality of Canadians’ dietary intakes and the food supply; and
  •  the influence of the food industry on government healthy food policies is minimized.

Policies should promote the intake of healthy, whole foods, while acknowledging the many interlinked factors that shape Canadians’ dietary patterns. The Calgary Statement calls on all Canadians, and specifically those in government and non-governmental organizations, to prioritize the implementation of policies and programs that enable all Canadians to maintain a healthy diet throughout the entire course of their lives.