Today I was asked by a government policy analyst: "I'm trying to think of an example of a situation when ethnicity or culture matters in regulatory policy. Can you help me out?"
Here's my best attempt. I challenge others to try to come up with a better example.
The regulation: In Canada, Vitamin D must be added to milk.
"Addition of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D to fluid milk is a legal requirement under Health Canada's Food and Drugs Act (see Appendix 1, Table 1). Vitamin D is added to all forms of milk while Vitamin A is added only to skim and partly (partially) skimmed milks. Evaporated and powdered milks which are sold at retail in Canada have similar requirements for vitamin addition. In addition, Vitamin C is required to be added to evaporated milks. Section B.08.027 of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) exempts certain dairy products which are used in or sold for the manufacture of other food from the vitamin addition requirements which are specified in the above prescribed food standards" Source: www.inspection.gc.ca
Why does ethnicity and culture matter?
Ethnicity and culture matter, first, because they influence the amount of Vitamin D supplementation a person will need to maintain good health. The people who are most at risk of Vitamin D deficiency are those who are do not absorb sufficient vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. People relatively more skin pigment have a heightened risk for Vitamin D deficiency, because they require up to six times the amount of sun exposure to absorb the same level of Vitamin D as a person with relatively less skin pigment (reference). Since a person's level of skin pigmentation is largely genetically determined, ethnicity influences the risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Culture is a factor, also, because it will affect the extent to which people are willing to expose their skin in public - and thus the amount of vitamin D they will absorb from sunlight.