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Canada might be first country to slap a warning label on ground beef

Thomas Lambert

June 15, 2022

Health Canada has decided to go after ground beef and is proposing mandatory front-of-package warning labels for the product, leaving many ranchers and beef organizations puzzled and enraged.

Should ground beef come with a warning label?
Should ground beef come with a warning label?

Health Canada is denying that the mandatory front-of-package nutrition label is an outright warning label, saying that it’s meant to alert Canadians to the risk of products that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. You know, sort of like a warning label…

However, many foods, specifically whole foods like raw cuts of meat, will be exempt. Curiously, ground beef will not be exempt, apparently due to its high saturated fat content.

As CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, Ryder Lee notes, “This would make Canada the only country in the world where a single ingredient product had this warning. It makes it make less and less sense, and we think the government and minister of health should reconsider.”

Moreover, according to Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois, approximately 50 per cent of Canadians’ beef consumption comes in ground form.

He adds that ground beef is one of the more affordable protein options — relevant given Canada’s rampant inflation — and that it should be exempt from the new labelling mandate.

“When you think about protein affordability, you’re basically discouraging Canadians from eating these products that are still relatively affordable compared to other cuts. You have to wonder whether or not it’s the right time to do this,” said Charlebois.

In Alberta, the United Conservative Party has come out against the proposed labels, too, calling Health Canada’s rationale “baseless.”

“While we can all support the federal Healthy Eating Strategy in principle, Ottawa’s scientifically baseless labelling proposal for ground meat will unfairly impact families struggling with the high cost of living and add an extra burden to producers struggling to get back on their feet,” said Alberta Agriculture Minister Nate Horner.

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