Let’s begin with the positive aspects of this new regulation. High sodium consumption globally is a health problem. It is not our first choice of health issue to address. We believe zoonotic diseases, the antibiotic crisis, or cancer group 1 foods like processed meats being advertised for consumption, just like cigarettes were in the 1930s, are more important to address.
However, we do not want perfection to be the enemy of good, and sodium is a health issue so let’s dive more into this. There is a glaring problem with the current regulation. A science-based organization that would be tasked to reduce sodium intake globally might look at the top 10 sources of sodium in the typical diet and use this to come up with a warning label for foods high in sodium. These numbers are from the US, but we posit this would apply to many other countries as the typical North American diet is spreading globally.
We can congratulate our government for covering almost all the top sources of sodium in people’s diets, but the big problem is that they chose to exempt some dairy, including cheese, from this new regulation; cheese being a good source of calcium to address hip fractures, and by extension osteoporosis, is a fallacy. However, we discussed this extensively before. The World Health Organization’s finding is clear:
Many other publications point to the same conclusion—that hip fracture prevalence (and by implication osteoporosis) is related to affluence and, consequently, to animal protein intake, as Hegsted pointed out, but also, paradoxically, to calcium intake because of the strong correlation between calcium and protein intakes within and between societies.
Health Canada chose to ignore its own guideline in the food guide, which removed dairy as a food group. We posit this was due to the many health issues and the fact that more than 65% of the human population has some form of lactose intolerance after infancy. Additionally, it is common knowledge that calcium is available from many other sources, and our food choices have an impact we cannot ethically ignore, which Health Canada reminds us about in the food guide:
Food choices can have an impact on the environment. While health is the primary focus of Canada’s Dietary Guidelines, there are potential environmental benefits to improving current patterns of eating as outlined in this report. For example, there is evidence supporting a lesser environmental impact of patterns of eating higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods. The potential benefits include helping to conserve soil, water and air.
The dairy industry's toll on our planet and our health is important. Additionally, cheese is one of the top 10 sources of sodium in people’s diets, so it’s confounding to see they chose to give it a pass. Did the dairy lobby influence our government officials, again? We will let you read the articles and come up with your own conclusions.
While there are many downsides to our current form of capitalism, the pursuit of profit at all costs sometimes has benefits. Corporations will attack anything that threatens their profit, whether it is us or the Government of Canada. We suspect many corporations will find those regulations discriminatory in nature. Even from within the dairy industry, we can well imagine that some makers of dairy products, like traditional ice cream, would be puzzled as to why they are subject to this new regulation, when they are not a top source of sodium, but sodium-laden cheese is exempted. The government surely can’t claim it’s because of the calcium and osteoporosis fallacy, since all forms of dairy products contain calcium in similar proportions.
Another interesting aspect of this new regulation is that it may force the government to rule on the status of various dairy-free alternatives. For example, there now exists molecularly identical whey and casein protein grown without cows that are labelled as dairy or cheese, as well as vegan cheeses made from plants that are also labelled as cheese. Would both of those be exempted under the dairy exemption if they also contain a similar amount of calcium? It will be interesting to hear what arguments our government comes up with to justify these exemptions, if and when they are challenged in court.
We would not be surprised if some corporations with deeper pockets than us would challenge this discriminatory legislation that gives an unfair competitive advantage to some businesses for no good reason, apart from the corrupting influence of the animal agriculture lobby.
On our end, we don’t know if this new regulation was the product of the corruption of our government officials by the dairy lobby. We will add this to our next revision of our “Show me the money” article as another one of those unexplained benefits for the animal agriculture industry—particularly the dairy industry, the largest lobby organization in Canada.