Canada Wants to Put Warning Labels on All Junk Foods

One in four Canadians is obese.

Without a clear solution to the epidemic in sight, the Canadian government hopes more aggressive packaging for junk foods could be the answer.

“Health Canada is proposing mandatory front-of-package labelling for foods high in nutrients that are a public health concern,” reads a public consultation published by Health Canada. These “nutrients” include sugars, sodium, and saturated fat.

The experiment is being fronted by Chile, which has already rolled out warning labels on bad-for-you foods. Mexico also appears poised to try the measure.

Junk food warning labels in Chile (“alto en” means “high in”)

Unfortunately, Canada and Mexico could face stiff resistance with the proposed labelling. According to Vox, US trade representatives are trying to block food labeling policies in Canada and Mexico (as well as the United States) by playing the NAFTA card.

The representatives (see: junk food lobbyists) say NAFTA members should not allow packaging that “inappropriately denotes that a hazard exists from consumption of the food or non-alcoholic beverages.” Perhaps someone should point them to the obesity statistics, which reveal that more than 30 per cent of American adults are obese.

Another way America’s “winning,” I guess.

The Canadian government is about to wrap up a regulatory process that would see warning labels come to a grocery near you. And while you may think you’re all #cleaneating and #organeverything, plenty of research suggests current food labels are either misleading or misunderstood.

“Consumers are not dietitians. We have study after study showing how people don’t know how to use the numbers [in traditional food labels],” said University of Waterloo professor David Hammond, who will advise the federal government on the matter.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the food companies who manufacture products high in sugar and sodium don’t want a label telling consumers these are high in sugar and sodium … but let’s not confuse the industry’s interest with the consumers’ and public health interest.”

Something tells me the industry’s interest is probably going to win here.