Mary L’Abbé, Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Director WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutrition Policy for Chronic Disease Prevention

Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of Toronto

Dr. L’Abbé is a Professor and former Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, where she leads a research group on Food and Nutrition Policy for Population Health. She is an expert in public health nutrition, nutrition policy, and food and nutrition regulations. In 2018 she was named to the Order of Canada and in 2020 was named one of the inaugural Fellows of the CNS-SCN. Her research examines the nutritional quality of the Canadian food supply, nutrient profiling methods, dietary intake patterns, and consumer research on food choices related to obesity and chronic disease. Professor L’Abbé has authored over 285 peer-reviewed scientific publications, book chapters and government reports. She was co-chair of the Canadian Trans Fat Task Force, Chair/Vice-Chair Canadian Sodium Working Group and is a member of several WHO committees, chairs the PAHO Technical Advisory Group on Sodium and was a member of the US National Academies Panel on Global Harmonization of DRIs. She is the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutrition Policy for NCD Prevention and one of the founding members of INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support).

Examining the healthfulness of processed foods in Canada using a branded food database

Like much of the world, the Canadian food supply has become increasingly dominated by packaged, pre-prepared and highly processed food and beverage products. Advancements in technology have improved the safety, shelf-life, taste and cost of the food supply. At the same time however, highly processed foods, have been targeted for their high levels of calories, free sugars, total and saturated fat and lower levels of protein, fibre and some vitamins and minerals. In our 2017 Food Label Information Program (FLIP) database of pre-packaged foods, more than two-thirds of packaged food and beverage products in Canada would be considered ultra- or highly processed, using the NOVA classification system. This then presents a challenge for Canadian consumers in following the new Canada’s Food Guide which recommends Canadians limit their consumption of highly processed foods. This presentation will overview the nutritional quality of the packaged food supply in Canada and point to the need for additional tools to help consumers navigate this complicated system – one where level of processing, can help, but cannot be relied on, on its own, to help consumers to find the ‘healthier’ food options.