Would you still reach for those chips and cookies if they came in a box with a warning label?
A group of Canadian doctors is hoping you wouldn't.
The Ontario Medical Association is calling for junk food to come with graphic warning labels, similar to those found on cigarette packages, along with an increased tax on foods that have no nutritional value. The group also wants to reduce taxes on healthy foods, restrict marketing of fatty and sugary food to children and limit the availability of junk food in recreational facilities frequented by young people.
Doug Weir, the association’s president, told the National Post that it was time to stop “tip-toeing” around the risks associated with certain calorie-laden foods.
“The recommendations … may appear radical to some, but the urgency of our situation demands aggressive action,” the OMA said in a background article about the labels. “The lessons learned from the strategies of the tobacco-control movement should be applied to the fight against obesity.”
The group may be looking out for the welfare of Canadian citizens, but not everyone is happy about the idea of the graphic warnings on food packaging.
Derek Nighbor, a vice president at Food and Consumer Products Canada, told the National Post, “I think it’s shocking that medical doctors would be comparing food to tobacco. They’re demonizing individual products and certain categories, and they’re ignoring the overall balanced diet message, which I think is seriously irresponsible.”
Jim Goetz, president of the Canadian Beverage Association, told the CBC he doesn't believe the taxation of junk food will work, either, saying taxation "does not change behavior, it hurts middle and lower income families and it costs food and beverage manufacturing jobs."
Even Canadian teenagers think the labels are over the top. Keplet Belance, a high school student, told CTV News, “I think that’s the parent’s choice to decide what the kids eat and drink. I don’t think government should be involved in that stuff."
The medical association said the warning labels are in response to obesity becoming a “full-scale public-health crisis.” According to the National Post, more than 26 percent of Canadian children aged 5 to 17 are either overweight or obese.