Food security is an important issue

While visiting farmers' markets, NDP MP Jean Crowder finds that people want their elected officials to make food security a priority.

One of my great pleasures in the summer is to visit the many farmers’ markets in our communities and see the great bounty that our Valley produces.

And I hear from many people I meet at these markets that food security is an important issue for them, one they want their elected officials to make a priority.

While many people focus on the availability of fresh, local produce at reasonable prices, for most Canadians, food security also means the safety of the food found in supermarkets.

The Conservative record on food safety took another hit last month when the Minister of Health announced she was ending the trans fats surveillance program that monitored the food industry’s voluntary compliance with reducing trans fats in the foods they produce for sale.

The NDP has taken the lead on tackling this issue, including garnering all-party support in 2004 for a New Democrat motion to limit trans fats in foods. That led directly to a multi-stakeholder Task Force on Trans Fats that reported to the House of Commons.

The surveillance program itself was not what the Task Force on Trans Fats had recommended back in 2006. That panel recommended Canadian food should be regulated to reduce trans fats and the adverse health outcomes they produce, including heart disease.

The Conservative government refused to take that step and instead offered a chance for food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce trans fats in their products over the next two years.

At that time, the Health Minister promised regulations if the voluntary reductions were not adequate.

Six years later, and after many dollars spent on a monitoring program, there are no regulations and soon Canadians won’t even know how much trans fats are in the food they buy at the supermarket.

Canadian families want to make healthy and nutritious food choices.

By axing any proposed regulations and ignoring departmental advice, the Health Minister makes it harder and harder for families to make these healthy choices.

And this is part of a worrying trend with this minister.

Well before it was done its job, she cut the Sodium Working Group that was trying to reduce the amount of sodium in food and also cut a program to work with provinces on reducing sodium.

And many Canadians are disappointed that there is still no action on improving food labels so Canadians know exactly what is in their food, especially genetically modified organisms.

New Democrats believe the Health Minister should be working to improve and protect Canadians’ health. Not the interests of industry.