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</P> Canada's food labelling system has just gotten an overhau.

Food Labels Overhauled

Canada's food labelling system has just gotten an overhaul.

But will this make Canadians lighter on the scale or lighter in the pocket?

New Nutrition Facts labels, similar to those in the United States that show calories and amounts of various key nutrients, will be required on all prepackaged grocery foods. It's going to cost an estimated $263 million to set up, with consumers and industry picking up the tab. But Health Canada believes the mandatory nutrition labels will save $5 billion in health-care costs over the next 20 years because people will be making healthier eating choices.

Also on the positive side, the labels will list trans fat content-something American labels don't yet do. Trans fats are toxic, hydrogenated fats linked to disease. Our labels won't, however, indicate the presence of genetically modified ingredients or the amount of sugar.

Although most believe the labels are a step forward, shoppers will still have to read between the lines. New packaging or not, supporting companies that adhere to whole-food philosophies, which focus on high ingredient quality and healthy food processing, remain our best bet for healthy shopping.

In the works: California Dentists to Post Mercury Warning

Chances are if we peered into the mouths of most Canadians, we'd find those telltale silver fillings, which are actually about 50 per cent mercury. If we moved to California, we'd probably also see this warning in our dentist's office, which states, among other things: Dental amalgams, used in many dental fillings, causes exposure to mercury, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.

"This is the first admission by organized dentistry that amalgams pose a potential health risk," said attorney Shawn Khorrami, who took the case as far as California Superior court on behalf of As You Sow, an American non-profit foundation dedicated to acting in the public's interest. "The only problem is that it's about 100 years too late."

Unfortunately, it could be some time before something similar occurs in Canada. If you're concerned about dental amalgams, wholistic dentists specialize in toxin-free dentistry and proper amalgam removal. Do your research. A few sites to get you started: talkinternational.com, hans.org, holisticdental.org, iaomt.org and toxicteeth.org.

New Canadian Organics Program

When reports of the United States' new national organic standards hit the news, the question on many peoples' minds became, "Well, what about us?" Canada has no national unifying program. But now, thanks to new funding and the efforts of the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), our delayed program is getting back on track.

Despite strong efforts, the developmental process halted in 2001 primarily due to lack of money and the absence of cohesion in Canada's organic industry. However, the COABC is taking on the project to work with the Canadian organic sector and the federal government to establish consistent regulations across the country.

"Kudos to the COABC and its partners for seeing the very real need to address the issue of a viable, recognized organic standard to meet the challenge of the USDA's new regulations," says Tony Cetinski of Suncatcher Farm in Kelowna, BC, which grows organic vegetables. "If we want to be able to compete internationally, we'd better get on the bandwagon in a hurry and make sure the world knows Canada can compete in every agricultural arena."

Web site: certifiedorganic.bc.ca.

Get Involved!

Research provided by the Health Action Network Society (HANS), a membership-based, consumer-driven, non-profit charitable organization in Burnaby, BC. HANS is dedicated to collecting information and monitoring health issues and environmental concerns that affect human health. Annual membership: $35. Web site: hans.org. Phone: 604-435-0512.

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