CANADA's fresh produce safe and healthy, industry says
The Daily Townsman (Cranbrook)
Dan Dempster, president, Canadian Produce Marketing Association, writes that Canadians love their produce, consuming over 6.4 million tonnes of it every year. That's something like 50 billion servings of tasty salads, apples and berries, just to name a few.
Yet, says Dempster, produce has had some bad press lately, including information that's just plain wrong.
A number of produce-related issues late last year captured the headlines. But, serious though E. coli-contaminated spinach and recalled cantaloupes undoubtedly are, they don't define the reality of Canada's market for produce.
Confusing research also had some consumers wondering about the produce they're eating, with no good reason. Take, for instance, the scary statistic from the Public Health Agency of Canada that spoke of an estimated 11 million to 13 million cases of food-borne illness a year in Canada. A number like that suggests a veritable epidemic.
But a closer look reveals the number was a countrywide extrapolation from the results of a telephone survey conducted with 3,500 randomly selected residents of the Hamilton, Ont., area. In other words, it's an estimate.
Canadians can have more confidence in a study to be published later this year by the same public health agency, looking at actual documented outbreaks of food-borne illness in Canada over an eight-year period. This revealed that fewer than 3 per cent of the 1,127 outbreaks reported were definitively linked to fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce, it turns out, is actually the safest fresh food group. (the key would be definitively linked, as so few outbreaks are; I look forward to reading the study, which the industry has apparently already seen -- dp)
Of course, one food-borne illness is one too many. But the statistics regarding the health benefits of consuming five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming. Science has proved that consuming vegetables and fruit can help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, keep your bones strong and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
What happens without enough produce in the diet? Health Canada estimates $4.3 billion annually is spent treating illness and diseases linked directly to obesity alone. Add to that the billions of dollars spent treating heart disease, cancer and diabetes: Now that's an epidemic. Canadians need to focus on the big issues around healthy eating.