The revised Canada Food Guide won't be released until early 2007, but critics are already finding fault with a circulating draft version, sayingit isn't relevant across the country and could actually make Canadians fat.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, said the draft refers to outdated nutrient information dating back to 1997. He said over the past decade, many food products, from apples to bagels, have ballooned in size, but that change has not been reflected in the updated guide.
"Eating according to the food guide would provide far more calories than the average Canadian would need, and as a consequence, anybody following the food guide almost certainly will likely gain weight," Freedhoff said.
Others like Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, the former public health minister, have criticized the guide for failing to factor in regional differences.
"What do people do who can't afford what we have traditionally called a balanced diet when two litres of orange juice in Iqaluit is $16?" she asked.
Mary Bush, Health Canada's director general, said the federal agency recognizes there is a problem and is working on a separate guide for First Nations people that will include more wild game and traditional fare.
"This particular execution is trying to look at traditional foods and market foods, and how First Nations people approach their food supply, in a much more culturally relevant manner," she said.
She also noted that the foodguide will improve the pictures in itspublished guideand on its website, in an attempt to help immigrants who may not read English or French.
About 6,000 people have sent in recommendations online and another 600 people have submitted suggestions in person, Bush said. She said she aims to re-evaluate the portion sizes in the draft document for the final version.
"What we're doing is trying to anchor an amount of food and relate it to the number of those amounts that one would eat in the course of the day," she said
Canada's first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was published in July 1942 and addressed issues of wartime rationing and general health. Since then, the guide has been revised several times.
The federal government announced in March 2004 that it would be revising its Food Guide, which had not been updated since 1992, to address changes in eating patterns, food supply and diets.