Ontario Doctors Want Graphic Warnings on Junk Food Packaging


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Will junk food require a warning label? Hamburger Image by lockstockb

Graphic Warnings on Junk Food Packaging

The recommendation to include graphic warnings on junk food has only been made recently, and the government has not had an opportunity to address the issue. Should warning labels be required on food and drink deemed unhealthy, major fast food outlets will no doubt take legal action as the tobacco companies have done and are doing. If this happens, there is also little doubt the case will end up before Canada’s highest court.

The court has already clearly established that such advertising restrictions infringe the right to freedom of expression. The legal arguments will be about whether the breach of the right is justified. Fast food chains will argue that their products are not like tobacco because they are not inherently addictive to all those who partake. They will argue there are people who enjoy their products do not become addicted as smokers do and there is no harm unless the person chooses to overindulge. No doubt they will also argue that there are less intrusive ways to fight obesity than to require graphic images in packaging. It will probably be argued that although it cannot be disputed that smoking causes cancer, obesity in children and adults can be caused by other factors such as genetics, lack of exercise, and grossly overeating food that is not classified as junk food.

Overall, however, the success of the graphic warnings on tobacco products could provide the impetus to treat sugary and low nutritional food in the same way.


Ontario Medical Association. Ontario’s Doctors Call for Urgent Action to Combat Obesity Epidemic. (2012). Accessed October 30, 2012.

Leah McDaniel. Tobacco Advertising Rules Go Back to Court…Again. (2012). Centre for Constitutional Studies. Accessed October 30, 2012.

Canada (Attorney General) v. JTI-Macdonald Corp. (2007). 2 SCR 610. Accessed October 30, 2012.

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