Canada's Conservative Leader Blasts Food Guide for 'Bias' Against Dairy

Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons – Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party in Canada

"Chocolate milk saved my son's life," Andrew Scheer said. So he has promised to rewrite the dietary guidelines if elected this fall.

If Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer becomes the prime minister of Canada in October's upcoming federal election, he said he'll revisit the Canada Food Guide, just published in January 2019, to better reflect "what we know, what the science tells us." This provocative statement was made at the annual general meeting of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, a group that is understandably disgruntled at being left out of the food guide this time round.

After years of dairy featuring prominently in the Canada Food Guide, the newest version does not use the word 'dairy' anywhere in its main text, merely urging Canadians to make water their drink of choice and to 'eat protein foods', which a picture of what looks like yogurt in the midst of a pile of nuts, pulses, meats, fish, and tofu. Scheer continued:

"The process was flawed. Complete lack of consultation. Seems to be ideologically driven by people who have a philosophical perspective and a bias against certain types of healthy food products. So absolutely we want to get that right."

What's ironic is that the newest guide has been lauded globally for its refusal to bow to industry pressure. Its authors did not use any industry-backed studies and relied only on the top nutritional studies to formulate their suggestions, which are simple, straightforward, and focused on proportions, rather than portion sizes.

Promo image. Health Canada

Health Canada/Promo image

Scheer went on to say that the Dairy Farmers of Canada's own research into the benefits of its products were unfairly disregarded (despite the fact that this would qualify as an industry-influenced study):

"The work that you have done as a group to prove the science behind the product that you produce has been incredible and that went completely unused during the development of the new food guide."

He said he "truly believes" his own son's life was saved by chocolate milk, as he was such a picky eater between ages 2 and 6, subsisting on toast and bacon, that Scheer and his wife turned to chocolate milk as a solution. "Where was he gonna get his calcium and other vitamins? And he loved chocolate milk and he would drink chocolate milk by the tumbler-full."

I have difficulty taking anyone seriously who raises a young child on chocolate milk and talks like it's a health food. Nor do I feel particularly compelled to entrust the running of my country to someone who can't even get a preschooler to eat a balanced diet – or, worse yet, thinks they're doing it but is very clearly not. This isn't rocket science.

Doctors have called the comments "intensely stupid and uninformed." Federal health minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, is similarly unimpressed, telling the CBC,

“What’s ridiculous is Andrew Scheer spreading lies about a food guide that was enthusiastically welcomed by Canadians and celebrated as a world leader. These totally inaccurate comments are hardly surprising coming from the same Conservative Party that muzzled government scientists and blatantly ignored evidence."

Scheer also wants to abolish the plan to put bold labels on food products warning against high levels of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. He said such a measure would have a "very negative effect" on the dairy industry, nor does he like the top-down interference: "I don’t need the government to come along and put a big red sticker on something just because somebody in an office thought that I shouldn’t be eating that. I think it’s not based on sound science."

The problem is that science doesn't always back up one's personal preferences, which apparently Scheer has yet to learn. This is just one more reason why I won't be voting Conservative in the fall.