An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (trans fatty acids)
Pat Martin NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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Private Members' Business
June 20th, 2012 / 7:30 p.m.
Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Madam Speaker, I am rising in the House today to support the motion of the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans. Motion M-319 seeks to find solutions to a serious problem: childhood obesity. The NDP strongly supports this initiative. Obesity rates are skyrocketing and are having a serious impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health care system.
The hon. member has four main points. First, he suggests that the government continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth. In short, he is proposing that we continue to talk about childhood obesity.
Second, he recommends that the government encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food. Once again, he is suggesting that we talk some more.
Third, he recommends that the government encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight, but he does not suggest any concrete ways of doing this.
Lastly, the motion urges the government to consider the framework for action entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity” that resulted from the endorsement of the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion by the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. It calls on all stakeholders to take action to address obesity, particularly in children, promote physical activity and make healthy food choices.
The motion would help increase awareness of this issue among Canadians and would create a dialogue with a view to addressing obesity rates in Canada. This objective is important, but the NDP thinks that we must go further than that.
Furthermore, the NDP has always called for regulations on trans fats in foods, in order to reduce the impact that poor food choices can have on childhood obesity.
In 2004, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre moved a private member's motion to regulate trans fat content in foods. The motion was adopted unanimously, but since then, the government has not followed up with any action. My colleague also introduced Bill C-303, which would limit trans fatty acids. The government has not taken any action since then.
It is critical that we take swift and early action to curb childhood obesity. An obese child is 20% more likely to struggle with weight problems in adulthood. Obese teens are an alarming 80% more likely, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. These numbers are extremely disturbing.
Healthy lifestyle habits must be acquired early on because they are not innate. The best example is enjoyment of physical activity. A child who has active parents and who is encouraged to participate in sports at school will be more likely to maintain those good habits throughout his lifetime.
With all of that in mind, I am worried about how little physical activity kids get in school.
Meaningful steps should be taken to make our environments more conducive to physical activity, to curtail marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and to increase the availability of nutritious foods at reasonable prices.
Childhood obesity affects physical health as well as a child's emotional health and social life. Children with poor self-esteem can be in for a lifelong struggle. We all know how some kids bully others who are different, which can have serious short- and long-term repercussions.
That is why I support my colleague's motion. However, we must go further by calling for meaningful action as soon as possible.
Several reports have made clear recommendations. In 2007, the Standing Committee on Health examined the issue of childhood obesity. I was surprised to see that the recommendations made by that committee were not included in Motion M-319. For instance, in its report entitled “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”, the committee recommends that the federal government establish clear targets to reduce the rate of childhood obesity, suggesting a 2% reduction by 2020.
The report also suggests that the government should present an annual report to Parliament on overall efforts to attain healthy weights for children and on the results achieved. These recommendations were based on evidence from experts in the field, but the member for Ottawa—Orléans chose not to follow their advice.
The provinces have shown that it is possible to take action and really reduce childhood obesity rates. In Alberta, for instance, a program called “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!” has really helped reduce children's body mass index and body fat percentages. It has also improved their eating habits, increased their physical activity and improved their confidence and self-esteem.
Nova Scotia has also taken measures to eliminate childhood obesity by establishing a food and nutrition policy for the province's public schools that teaches the students to make healthy food choices and only allows food service in schools that meet specific nutrition criteria.
In Quebec, the organization “Québec en Forme” is working to promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle for Quebec youth from birth to 17 as essential elements of their full development and educational success. To do this, Québec en Forme is present throughout Quebec, to support communities and organizations that promote projects that establish all the necessary conditions to make it fun and easy for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to move more and eat better on a daily basis.
It is time for the Conservative government to follow the provinces' example and show some leadership. With national standards, such as the Standing Committee on Health report called for, obesity rates could drop across Canada. The motion also calls for dialogue with the industry, but so far the government just bows to industry on matters of health, allowing unhealthy processed foods to go unregulated.
Therefore, I will be supporting the hon. member's initiative, and I hope that the government will follow up with real action soon. It is not enough to talk about the rising rate of childhood obesity; we must do something about it. The time has come. I call on the rest of the Conservative caucus to follow the example of the member for Ottawa—Orléans and address this important issue by introducing a bill that will turn words into action.
Private Members' Business
June 20th, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.
Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion today. I still have a valid health care practitioner's licence, so I am always happy to talk about health-related issues, especially issues that have to do with children and youth.
This motion calls on the House to work with the provinces and territories, as well as with health stakeholders, to teach young people about obesity and problems associated with obesity. It also calls on the House to take measures to curb childhood obesity. Although I agree with this motion, I would like to say that I do not think it will do very much.
No one can disagree that obesity is a major problem in our society, but unfortunately, the wording of the motion does not add anything useful and will not achieve much on this issue.
I would like to point out that obesity is a serious health problem, especially when it begins in childhood. Obesity has a variety of effects on health. It can affect both physical and psychological health. We know that young people can be more isolated, have fewer opportunities to speak, have problems with their friends and have self-esteem problems.
In addition to physical health problems, there can be mental health problems. They can affect one's quality of life. Obese individuals cannot participate in the same activities. An obese individual might be unable to go out with friends because he cannot take part in the activity they are doing. There may also be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, obesity can affect life expectancy.
As we have seen, obesity can lead to many problems. For example, it can significantly increase the risk of many chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, liver and gall bladder disease, stroke, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
I want to point out that type 2 diabetes used to affect older people. The greater the demand on the pancreas, the more it deteriorates, and the more likely a person is to require medication. This type of diabetes usually develops later in life, among people over 40. Now, however, we are seeing teenagers with type 2 diabetes. Our teenagers are suffering from old-age diabetes. This is a big problem.
Obese people also have a greater risk of developing cancer, particularly endometrial, breast and colon cancer. Obesity can also cause sleep apnea, which can even lead to death, since sufferers stop breathing in their sleep. It is very disturbing. It causes other respiratory problems, too.
In Canada, 26% of children aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese. Twenty-six percent. That is a lot. That is one in every four kids.
Obesity rates are even higher in aboriginal populations. Approximately 20% of aboriginal children aged 6 to 14 who live off reserve are obese. Some 26.4% of aboriginal children aged 9 to 14 living on reserve are obese.
In light of all these facts, I think the government really needs to take a leadership role when it comes to promoting health and healthy lifestyles. The incidence of obesity and the problems it causes for Canadian families and on our health care system is truly significant. It is important to understand just how much obesity is weighing down our health care system.
According to recent estimates concerning the economic burden of obesity, it is costing the Canadian health care system somewhere between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion a year.
The Conservatives have had those figures for years now, but have failed to show any leadership on a host of important health issues, including on regulating unhealthy foods, on offering solutions to provide full treatment for people with obesity and on funding physical activity programs.
Although the motion deals with obesity, it does not call for concrete measures to be adopted to deal directly with the problem of obesity.
In 2007—many of my colleagues were members of Parliament at the time—the Standing Committee on Health published a report entitled, “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”. The report contained 13 key recommendations, the main one being that the government establish support programs and set targets for reducing childhood obesity rates, including a 10% reduction by 2020.
In this report, the committee also recommended immediately adopting measures to address childhood obesity among aboriginals. It listed various progressive and concrete strategies to reduce childhood obesity.
This committee report provides a real plan of action. It has concrete measures and the data to move forward. I think it is a shame that this motion does not take the recommendations in the report into account, in order to try to find something that will allow us to truly make progress in the fight against obesity.
The motion also calls for dialogue with industry. I agree that it is important to engage all stakeholders. However, at this point, we have had enough discussions with industry. That has been done, and it may be time to take a harder stance with industry about health-related matters. We want processed foods that are bad for our health to be regulated. The government has not dared do this. These are things the government could do, and it knows it.
Furthermore, this motion fails to consider an important aspect of the problem: the socio-economic factors of obesity. It is not by chance that aboriginal children are most affected. We know that they are deeply affected by poverty.
A family that has trouble making ends meet will find it much more difficult to provide a healthy and balanced diet for the children. That has to be taken into consideration. In Canada, two litres of milk cost approximately $2.35 at the grocery store, while two litres of Coca-Cola cost 59¢. Then we wonder why Canadian families cannot make healthy choices when they have no money. It makes no sense that products that are good for health are more expensive and that Canadian families cannot afford them. We have to eliminate poverty if we want people to be healthier one day, and if we really want to fight obesity.
I would also like to point out that the NDP has always pushed for regulations governing trans fats in food in order to reduce the impact of poor food on obesity. Trans fats have various effects on health.
For example, in 2004, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre introduced a private member's motion to regulate the trans fat content in foods. The motion was adopted unanimously, but since then, the government has not followed up with any concrete measures. My colleague also introduced Bill C-303, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (trans fatty acids) to limit trans fatty acids to two grams per 100 grams.
The Conservative government is continuing to avoid taking concrete measures to address the problem of childhood obesity. Rather than simply talking about this issue, the government should be establishing health targets to reduce obesity rates, taking measures to regulate processed foods, and providing funding for physical fitness and nutrition programs. If the government does not immediately attack this problem and its underlying causes, the rising obesity rates will continue to have a serious impact on the health of Canadians and will continue to be a major burden on our health care system.
There have been enough studies of the issue of childhood obesity. There have been enough recommendations, and we have enough information to take much more concrete action on this issue. It is possible to have a much more proactive action plan that would allow us to take concrete action to combat obesity. The health of Canadian children depends on it.
Food and Drugs Act
September 29th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-303, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (trans fatty acids).
Mr. Speaker, I felt it necessary to introduce this private member's bill to seek to have Parliament ban trans fatty acids and to eliminate them to the greatest extent possible from our food supply.
Parliament spoke to this issue and voted, by a majority vote, to ban trans fatty acids, but the government of the day and the subsequent Conservative government failed to act on the will of Parliament as expressed by that motion.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Medical Association and other scientific experts agree that this type of fat in our foods should be eliminated as it is far more harmful than other type of saturated fats in our food supply. Some measures have been taken to reduce the trans fatty acids in our food supply, but Parliament was clear that it did not want trans fatty acids reduced by voluntary measures. It wanted them eliminated to the greatest extent possible. That is what this bill, when passed, would require.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)