In an effort to shed light on the difficulties of implementing food policy in the public’s best interest and educate students on the dangers of fast food, the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association hosted a panel discussion for students last Thursday.
As part of SCPASA’s recent initiative to advocate for a better health policy, speakers shared their contributions to the fight for better food policy at the national level and their insight into the issue. Panelists included Dr. Shiv Chopra, a microbiologist and author of Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower, Bill Jeffery, national co-ordinator of Ottawa’s Centre for Science in the Public Interest and Amanda Sheedy, co-ordinator for Food Secure Canada.
“There’s a complete lack of debate in the political discourse in Canada on the issue,” said Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, executive secretary of the SCPASA. “Major strains are on our public health-care system.”
Garoufalis-Auger stressed that the strains are a result of unhealthy and processed food, the backlash on the environment from mass, industrial farming and the growing global food crisis. About 20 per cent of deaths in countries such as Canada are linked to nutrition-related illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The CSPI vows to represent the public’s interest before regulatory and legislative bodies by advocating for the elimination of synthetic trans fats and the reduction of sodium in products.
According to Jeffery, a simple reduction in sodium to the level recommended by health experts could help avert the deaths of 14,000 to 16,000 Canadians annually related to heart attacks and strokes. The burden puts a lot of pressure on provincial governments to “fill the void” while the federal government “ignores” the problem.
FSC lobbies for a national food policy that addresses food security, climate change and poverty. Its goal is to improve the current food system as an estimated two million people in Canada are ‘food insecure’ and about 800,000 people in Canada visit a food bank every month.
“I think it’s a shame, I think it’s an embarrassment that we can’t figure out a way as a society to feed ourselves,” said Sheedy.
Five substances are incorporated illegally into the food supply such as hormones, slaughterhouse waste and antibiotics, that each contribute to disease and untimely death, according to Chopra.
“This is not a matter of nutrition, this is not a matter of shortage of food, this is a matter of corruption,” said Chopra. “Big companies are now in charge of our governments.”
“In Canada, the greatest hope is Quebec simply because history shows every new idea, every new social change has always been started here.”