New legislation before the Canadian Parliament would amend the Food and Drinks Act to ban advertising and packaging of ‘unhealthy food’ items aimed at those under the age of 17. It would be a landmark move, and the Fast Food and Snacks industries are already fighting back with a vengeance…
The bill’s sponsor, Winnipeg area MP Doug Eyolfson, says the purpose of the bill is to help reduce childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
“We need bold action now,” he told the House of Commons as he introduced the bill, named for former Olympian Nancy Greene Raine, a longtime health and fitness advocate.
The province of Quebec has already passed similar legislation, making it illegal to target children under the age of 13 with advertising and packaging. Eyolfson says he may introduce an amendment bringing his federal legislation in line with that established and accepted age limit. The amendment is designed to make the bill easier to pass as well as conform to his party’s stated position on the issue.
The Empire Strikes Back
The Fast Food and Snacks industries are fighting mad, of course. Among the arguments they are putting forward are a basic constitutional one: They say their freedom of expression is being infringed. That’s going to be hard to defend, though, since the Quebec bill has been in place for some time and no challenges to it have been successful.
The other complaint the Food industries are howling about is that the Bill doesn’t define what ‘unhealthy foods’ are. But it does order Health Canada to prepare a list of such foods and products upon which basis the Act will be enforced.
Among those also affected are convenience stores, which rely on ‘comfort food’ sales for a large percentage of their revenue, and television and newspapers, which will, potentially, lose advertising revenues.
But the benefits overwhelm the drawbacks
Consider how much money could be saved on health care spending if childhood obesity was reduced – or, ideally, obliterated? Billions of dollars! And that doesn’t even take into account the billions more that obese kids would cost the health care system once they became obese adults! And the fact is, most of them do.
Some healthy eating advocates, who say junk foods should be banned altogether, liken ‘unhealthy food’ to pesticides. People want them and the economy benefits from their sale. But the dangers and drawbacks far outweigh those benefits. And we banned a lot of pesticides some time ago.
Will it pass?
The Bill had a lot going for it. it’s a private member’s measure, and those have a notoriously poor record of passing the House and the Senate. But it has already passed second reading in the House of Commons and the Liberal majority in government has already gone firmly on record as being in favour of such a move. In fact, the Prime Minister’s Mandate Letter to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor includes a directive to place restrictions on commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, “similar to those now in place in Quebec.”
We’ll let you know how it all turns out…
~ Maggie J.