Work of the NSERC-PFSNRA
PFSNRA Areas of Research
- Canada's Dietary Guidance
- Dietary Patterns and Intakes
- Food Fortification
- Food Regulation
- Functional Foods
- Health Claims
- Micronutrient Safety
- Natural Health Products
- Novel Foods
- Nutrition Labeling
- School-aged Children's Health
- Standards of Evidence for Health Claims
- Trans Fatty Acids
Recent PFSNRA Focus
To reduce micronutrient deficiencies in the Canadian population, several staple foods such as bread, flour and salt are required to be fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals. This is referred to as mandatory fortification, and is done to replace nutrients lost during manufacturing, to act as a public health intervention, to ensure nutritional equivalence in substitute foods, or to ensure proper nutrient composition in foods for special dietary purposes. Due to demand for a wider variety of foods for consumers to obtain adequate vitamin and mineral intakes in a day, some countries including the U.S. have moved to a broader level of fortification, referred to as voluntary or discretionary fortification. While this allows consumers more choice in foods to achieve adequate levels of nutrients, it also creates the potential for over consumption of nutrients that may lead to adverse effects.
There is a need for more research in the area of voluntary/discretionary food fortification in Canada, and modernization of the Food and Drug Regulations. Currently in Canada some food products fortified with vitamins and minerals reached the market through the Natural Health Product (NHP) directorate. Because these products are viewed and consumed as foods, they are currently being moved to and regulated under the Food Directorate, which had strict rules for what foods can be fortified and at what level. To accommodate these foods and determine if they are safe on the market, Health Canada has created a new category of foods called ‘Supplemented Foods’ and is allowing sale of these products for a finite period of time to gather data and inform final regulations. The PFSNRA has hosted several meetings with Health Canada to identify research gaps in moving forward with supplemented foods and broader fortification regulations and acts as a conduit to connect industry, researchers and government on the issue.
For more information on Health Canada's proposed guidance for the new catergory of supplemented foods, please visit the Health Canada website.
Protein Quality Assessment Methods
Proteins are important and complex molecules made up of specific sequences of amino acids that serve countless roles in the human body. Proteins vary greatly in terms of source (animal or plant), composition and amino acid sequence, and ability to be digested. Humans have minimum protein requirements in order to support growth and optimize health, and these are based not only on amount (quantity) of protein but also on the quality of that protein (contain essential amino acids, easily digestible). Canada and other countries around the world therefore assess the quality of proteins in foods. Currently Canada uses the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) method which determines quality based on the ability to support growth in rats. With advances in science several other methods have emerged including the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) method currently used in the U.S. and the newer Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) method.
The availability of different protein quality assessment methods has led to debate among scientists about accuracy and feasibility, and also has caused discrepancies in the methods used by regulatory bodies (i.e. Canada using PER, U.S. using PDCAAS). The PFSNRA is interested in assessing the different protein quality assessment methods from the standpoint of scientific accuracy but also feasibility in regulation and use in industry, and creating North American and ideally global harmonization in methods used. Currently the PFSNRA is planning to co-host a workshop in November 2016 with Health Canada and protein researcher James House (University of Manitoba) to bring together North American protein scientists, regulatory bodies and industries to discuss knowledge gaps and opportunities.
In October 2013 the Canadian government made a commitment to assess and improve the information provided on food and nutrition labels, launched from a Speech from the Throne by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnson, Governor General of Canada. Beginning in 2014 Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began consultations with Canadian parents and consumers via in-person round table discussions and online surveys, leading to the publishing of the ‘What We Heard Report’ highlighting what consumers currently understand on the food label, and what they want improved. In the summer of 2014 Health Canada published the initial proposal for changes to food labels, and accepted feedback from stakeholders and the public. The PFSNRA submitted a report at this time to Health Canada highlighting the scientific support and criticisms of their proposed changes, which can be accessed here. After evaluating comments, Health Canada adjusted the proposed food label changes and published the revised proposal in Canada Gazette Part 1 in June 2015, launching a 60 day period for stakeholder and public feedback. The PFSNRA again submitted a report to Health Canada on the scientific evidence related to their food label changes. Our report can be found here. The PFSNRA also worked with the International Life Sciences Institute – North America branch to submit comments to Health Canada related to changes to sugars and fibre labelling. Currently Health Canada is evaluating the feedback and aims to publish the final amendments to the Food and Drug Regulation in Canada Gazette Part 2 by the end of 2016.
While Health Canada was modernizing their food label, the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. was also proposing changes to their label. More information on their process and the final changes to the food label published in the Federal Register on May 27, 2016 can be found on the FDA website .
Previous PFSNRA Work
Health Claim Guidance and Evaluation
Guidance on Health Claim Submissions
- "Scientific Substantiating Health Claims". Expert evaluation of PFSNRA's critical review on oats/psyllium and cholesterol-lowering - closed workshop. Winter 2007
- “Health Claims in Canada: An Update”. Afternoon symposium co-chaired by Dr. Dan Ramdeth and Dr. G. Harvey Anderson at the 2011 CNS-SCN Annual Meeting. This session brought together academia, regulators and industry to discuss current issues pertaining to health claims in Canada including current opportunities, the process involved and potential benefits of health claims. June, 2011
- “Health Claims Related to the Control of Post-Prandial Glycemia”. Morning symposium co-chaired by Dr. Alfred Aziz and Dr. G. Harvey Anderson at the 2012 CNS-SCN Annual Meeting. The purpose of this symposium was to present and discuss the different approaches to this type of health claim that were adopted or are being considered by regulatory jurisdictions, including Health Canada. May 2012
Oats and Psyllium Fibre
- “Oats and Psyllium Fibre Workshop”. Closed workshop to (a) receive expert feedback on PFSNRA’s systematic approach to retrieving and evaluating scientific literature on oats/psyllium and blood cholesterol/risk for coronary heart disease; (b) receive expert feedback on the internal and external validity of the relationship between oats/psyllium and blood cholesterol levels/risk for coronary heart disease; and (c) provide a forum for information exchange, learning, and discussion between scientists, academicians, regulators, and health professionals on the topic of oats/psyllium and blood cholesterol/risk for coronary heart disease. March, 2007
- “Does the Consumption of Plant Sterols Lower Plasma Cholesterol Concentrations?” Closed workshop to (a) receive additional expert feedback on PFSNRA’s systematic approach to retrieving and evaluating scientific literature on a food/health relationship; (b) receive expert feedback on the internal and external validity of the relationship between plant sterols and blood cholesterol levels/risk for CHD; and (c) provide a forum for information exchange, learning, and discussion between scientists, academicians, regulators, and health professionals on the topic of plant sterols and blood cholesterol/risk for CHD. June, 2008
Probiotics, Prebiotics and Symbiotics
- “Symposium on the Health Benefits of Probiotics, Prebiotics and Symbiotics”. Closed workshop to obtain an overview of (a) the current state of the science relating probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics to health benefits; and (b) the regulations impacting health claims for these food components. October, 2008
- “Is there sufficient evidence to support a health claim for pulse consumption and lowering coronary heart disease risk?” Closed symposium to (a) receive expert feedback on their confidence in the causality (internal validity) and generalizability (external validity) of the relationship between pulse consumption and blood cholesterol levels/risk for CHD; (b) identify research gaps; and (c) provide a forum for information exchange, learning, and discussion between scientists, academics, regulators, and health professionals on the topic of pulse consumption and blood cholesterol/risk for CHD. June, 2010
Approved Dietary Fibre and Definition
- "Scientific Workshop on Dietary Fibre". Closed workshop to (a) discuss the support for Canada's novel fibre labeling policy, under which novel fibre sources are required to demonstrate one or more physiological effects, versus basing dietary fibre labeling on compositional criteria alone; and (b) seek greater scientific clarity as to which other physiological effects are appropriately attributable to dietary fibres beyond the three currently approved physiological effects (attenuation of blood glucose, normalization of blood lipids, and laxation) and could therefore potentially be used to support the declaration of a novel fibre as dietary fibre. November, 2006
- “Sodium Reduction: The Why’s and How’s”. Afternoon symposium co-chaired by Ms. Nora Lee and Dr. Bernadene Magnuson at the 2008 CNCN-CSNS Annual Scientific Meeting. This symposium aimed to look at the science behind Health Canada’s salt reduction initiative and some new and exciting alternatives for salt substitution currently under development. May, 2008
Nutritional Health of School Age Children in Canada
- Think Tank On School Nutrition and Activity. [In conjunction with the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition]. June, 2006
The PFSNRA has published many papers and reports on a variety of topics. Below are a list of some recent publications and reports produced by the PFSNRA (2007 onwards):
Paulionis, L. Oats and Psyllium Workshop: Summary of Proceedings and Key Conclusions and Inferences. PFSNRA, July 2007
Wong CL. Background Document: Highlighting the Primary Activities Related to a Heart Disease Claim for Plant Sterols. PFSNRA, May 2008
Wong CL, Anderson GH. Does the Consumption of Plant Sterols Lower Plasma Cholesterol Concentrations? A Summary of Workshop Proceedings and Expert Reviews. PFSNRA, Sept 2008
Wong CL. A Critical Analysis of the Science on Plant Sterols and Cholesterol Lowering. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, Sept 2008
Wong CL, Comelli E, Anderson GH. Background Document: Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics. PFSNRA, Oct 2008
Wong CL. Health Benefits and Regulation of Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics. A Summary of Symposium Proceedings. PFSNRA, Nov 2008
Paulionis L, Wong CL. Health Claim Substantiation in Canada: Possibilities for Expediting the Process. [Prepared for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada]. PFSNRA, March 2010
Wong CL, Anderson GH. Is there sufficient evidence to support a health claim for pulse consumption and lowering coronary heart disease risk? A Summary of Workshop Proceedings and Expert Reviews. [Prepared for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada]. PFSNRA, June 2010
Wong CL, Anderson GH. Background Document: Pulses and Cardiovascular Disease. PFSNRA, June 2010
Cuda C, Wolever TMS and Anderson GH. Comments on Health Canada's Proposed Policy: Definition and Energy Value for Dietary Fibre. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, March 2011
Cuda C, Anderson GH. Tackling Obesity Together: Collaborative Approaches to Food & Health. [Prepared for the Public Health Agency of Canada’s “Our Health Our Future” initiative]. PFSNRA, June 2011
Nunez MF, Comelli E & Magnuson B. Comments on Health Canada’s Draft Guidance Document on the Use of the Term “Prebiotic(s)” on Food Labels and in Advertising. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, June 2012
Nunez MF, Anderson GH. Comments on Health Canada’s Draft Guidance Document on the Use of Satiety Health Claims on Food. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, November 2012
Nunez MF, Darling P & Comelli E. Comments on Health Canada’s Draft Statement “Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months”. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, July 2013
PFSNRA. Nomination for New Dietary Reference Intakes Review of n-3 long-chain PUFAs (EPA and DHA). [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, July 2013
PFSNRA. Comments on Health Canada’s Draft Guidance Document on Food Health Claims Related to the Reduction in Post-prandial Glycaemic Response. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, September 2013
Wiggins AK, Anderson GH. Comments on Health Canada’s Category Specific Guidance for Temporary Marketing Authorization: Beverages, Beverage Mixes and Concentrates, Powders, Bars and Confectionaries. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, August 2014
Wiggins AK, Anderson GH. Comments on Health Canada’s Technical Consultations on Nutrition Labelling. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, September 2014
Wiggins AK, Anderson GH. Comments on Health Canada’s Canada Gazette Part 1 amendments on Nutrition Labelling. [Submitted to Health Canada]. PFSNRA, August 2015
Wiggins, Ashleigh KA, G. Harvey Anderson, and James D. House. "Research and regulatory gaps for the substantiation of protein content claims on foods." Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 44.1 (2019): 95-98.
Wiggins, Ashleigh KA, Andrea Grantham, and G. Harvey Anderson. "Optimizing foods for special dietary use in Canada: key outcomes and recommendations from a tripartite workshop." Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism44.11 (2019): 1258-1265.
Fabek, H., Sanchez-Hernandez, D., Ahmed, M., Marinangeli, C. P., House, J. D., & Anderson, G. H. (2021). An examination of contributions of animal-and plant-based dietary patterns on the nutrient quality of diets of adult Canadians. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, (ja).