Childhood obesity solutions: Has the Ontario Medical Association gone a little too far?

There’s no doubt about it:  we need solutions to tackle the ever-growing obesity epidemic in children. It’s been said many times that this generation of kids won’t outlive their parents.  While too many calories and too little exercise appear to be the culprits, current nutritional science is showing there’s much more at work here.  Today’s kids have been growing up in a toxic food environment.

It’s definitely time to clean up the mess. Smart strategies are needed now. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has just initiated a campaign calling for urgent action in the area, some of which, if implemented, could aid in the efforts.

But it’s one of their suggestions that strikes me as being way off base. They want placement of graphic warning labels on pop and other high calorie foods with little to no nutritional value.

Just take a look at a few their suggested graphic warnings and see if you think they’re a little too graphic.

I just don’t think that diabetic foot ulcers and fatty livers belong on food packages.

This chocolate milk label, though, differs as it may offer information and an opportunity to educate.

To start solving this problem, though, other health professional associations and advocacy groups need to take action and support some of the other recommendations of the OMA including:

•    Increasing taxes on junk food and decreasing tax on healthy foods
•    Restricting marketing of fatty and sugary foods to children
•    Retail displays of high-sugar, high-fat foods to have information prominently placed advising consumer of the health risks
•    Restricting the availability of sugary, low-nutritional value foods in sports and other recreational facilities that are frequented by young people.
•    Legislation that would require calorie contents to be listed adjacent to the items on menus  and menu boards at chain restaurants and school cafeterias
•    An education campaign to help inform Ontarians about the impact of caloric intake on weight and obesity
•    Making physical activity/education mandatory throughout high school.
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What are your thoughts on these warning labels? Do you want to see action such as legislation to thwart this epidemic or do you see it as a personal matter? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Categories: Children's Health, Rosie's Rants

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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17 Comments on “Childhood obesity solutions: Has the Ontario Medical Association gone a little too far?”

  1. October 24, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Oh Rosie, this kind of stuff makes me crazy!

    I completely agree with you that those labels do NOT beling on our food. The last thing we need is for our children to grow up FEARING food and these labels just encourage unhealthy food relationships. The Milk label offered information that could EDUCATE and get people to THINK about things in a way they maybe have not thought about them before. You can send a powerful message without having to knock people over the heads with it. ALSO…I want to know if they are also going to be putting these kinds of labels on sugar-free and fat-free foods that are filled with dangerous chemicals OR if they are only concerned with the our waistlines?? If they want to send a message, they NEED to make sure that it’s the BEST one they can be sending!

    • October 24, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Thanks for your comments, Marci!

      My feeling is that these graphic disease images to scare kids off junk food makes them victims of our failure to clean up toxic food environment. There are many other strategies that need to be implemented. I also agree that it’s not just about obesity. It has to be about healthy choices.

      To be honest, I don’t think the food industry would ever let these images make it to food labels. But maybe the OMA is using them to scare the food industry into taking some action. Who knows?

      • barbara nascimben
        October 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

        If this is the case, at least SOME attention is being given to the topic. Hopefully, it will just be the beginning.

      • October 24, 2012 at 11:53 am #

        That’s an interesting theory..light a little fear fire under the ases of the food industry in an effort to clean it up. Hit ’em where it hurts..their wallets.

      • October 24, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        Marci- I’m not basing this theory on any knowledge but it does seem like it could shake up the food industry a little!

  2. barbara nascimben
    October 24, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Totally agree with fitvsfiction’s statement! I also agree that sugar-free and fat-free foods should be labelled. Fat-free usually means full of sugar to compensate for taste and we all know, or should, that sugar-free does not mean its healthy by any means! We are not just addressing obesity!! Soooo many changes are needed. They must start somewhere.

    • October 24, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks for your comments, Barbara! You’re absolutely right about some of these fat-free and sugar-free foods not being the best choices. And some don’t even make the grade as far as taste. I sometimes suggest that people close their eyes when tasting some of these foods. They can look amazing which can be deceptive when you go to eat them. They may find that they’re not really sure what they are eating.

    • October 24, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      I don’t know if scaring the food industry is the OMA’s intention but hopefully it will get some attention. But I certainly hope I never see a foot ulcer on a food label. I would like to see the chocolate milk one, though!

      • barbara nascimben
        October 24, 2012 at 11:40 am #

        I agree.

      • October 24, 2012 at 11:54 am #

        LOL! I agree..the kicthen table is no place for a foot ulcer!

  3. October 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Besides being ridiculous, would it even have any positive effects? I wonder what the stats are on people who put back the cigarette pack after seeing the *shocking* warning written on the side that ‘this product causes cancer’ or how many pregnant women drop their beer can after just noticing the information printed on the can that this product may harm your unborn child? How many people are just looking at the calorie content on menus now and saying, “That’s too bad there are so many calories in this burger . . . cause I’m gonna eat it anyway!”

    • October 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Laurie! While I agree with some of your comments, I do, though, have to disagree about the calorie content on menus. Research does show that if people see the information at the point of purchase, in other words, before making their purchase, it can influence what they choose. It’s when the information is presented on the food tray or wrapper that it likely won’t make much of a difference. In some cases, when the information is there beforehand, a person may decide that the particular food may not be worth the calorie or sodium and go for something else. It at least helps people make informed choices.

      Showing a foot ulcer on a can of pop, however, is not informing people. I think it would just make them angry!

      • October 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

        Rosie, I don’t disagree about the menu notes! (just playing devil’s advocate here).
        I think that for people who look for the information, it can be very helpful. Personally, I love having the information in front of me to help guide me to make my own choices. I know most of the people (who I ask) don’t know what a serving size of a particular product is, how many calories are in a serving, etc. because they don’t ever read the labels. And I believe people who choose soda or pizza aren’t under the misconception that it’s a healthy choice they’re making.
        On the other hand, I can’t see many people getting the connection that goes from soda to foot ulcer! I would love to see the “man on the street” show where we ask the average Joe for his interpretation 🙂
        It would be helpful to use similar label guidelines to those used for “healthy” foods; while saying “grape juice can lead to diabetes” doesn’t seem like good information, I would like to see something more general such as “excessive consumption of sugary beverages on a regular basis can contribute to chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes”. Along with a miniature list of healthy eating guidelines!

  4. October 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Great points, Laurie! I agree that people would have no idea how a foot ulcer can be related to a can of pop. I also have to wonder about how it would be decided what kind of pizza would be linked to fatty livers etc – what about a thin-crusted whole grain one with lots of veggies.

    I have to think that the OMA had to have a larger agenda in putting forth these images. Maybe they thought that their other recommendations (which I think have merit) might seem tame in comparison.

  5. October 25, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    My first reaction to OMA’s decision is that the food labels are too harsh. Unlike cigarette (where there is no safe level of consumption), occasional consumption of treat foods can be safe (at least that is my opinion). I think the other health professional associations and advocacy groups are taking a better approach. Educating on appropriate portion size might be better approach, for example the pizza box. The label could read “2 pieces of pizza are appropriate for a meal. Add a salad or a platter of veggies and dip to complement this meal”. I think many people may not realize what “excess consumption” is.

    • October 25, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      I absolutely agree with your comments Susan – about having treats, portion size and providing relevant information that can educate individuals! These graphic images do not educate – instead they horrify and I believe, make people angry.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Does the OMA want us to be HEALTHY or just skinny? « Fit vs. Fiction's Blog - October 25, 2012

    […] As a body image advocate and author, I can tell you that the last thing we want to do is create fear and anxiety over food. Food isn’t something to be feared, but appreciated, respected and enjoyed. I  fully admit that we are a society that overindulges when it comes to what we put in our mouths, but negativity just breeds more negativity and is counterproductive in fighting the war against obesity. Have we completely given up on education? Instead of focusing on the evils of “Bad” food, why not teach people how to appreciate the healthier ones? Consulting Dietician and Author, Rosie Schwartz speaks more about this here:https://rosieschwartz.com/2012/10/24/childhood-obesity-solutions-has-the-ontario-medical-association-… […]

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