Some governments say citizens can’t be trusted to make the right nutritional choices. So how far should they go in trying legislate better health?

In the article Who banned my soda pop?  written by Ivor Tossell and published in May 22 2010 in the Globe and mail, the City of Toronto has decided that – on its own property, at least – choice is something its citizens are better off without. Hoping to prod its children into better eating habits, the city is planning to banish pop and energy drinks from vending machines in its community centres and arenas.

As I commented in the Letters to the editor published in May 25 in the Globe and mail, this article pleads for individual freedom of choice rather than for a healthy environment.

While I agree that healthy food and drinks should be at least as available as junk food and sweetened beverages, and not the inverse and even preferably more, it is not the case now with the invasion of fast food chains at every street corner. It is unbalanced and unfair.

Here, as a rule, there is no real choice for the individual at arenas. It is junk food or nothing. The movement we are now seeing with the new Toronto rules of eliminating fast food and sweetened beverages from city services and arenas should be applauded because it is a measure to give back to the population a better and healthier food environment in areas where we can decide on the kinds of food offered.

Not the food industry. Not for economical reasons. Health must always come first when it comes to offering public services.

If there is any criticism to be made on Toronto’s new rules, it is the fact that this policy is not being implemented progressively over time which would permit people to accept the new rules and adjust their food choices to them.

A progressive approach of environmental food changes and the appropriate education proved very successful with teenagers in a high school in Quebec City. This program which I initiated 6 years ago now served as a role model for other schools to follow in accordance with Quebec government policy regarding food in schools.

The economical approach is an alternative to the environmental approach in order to promote the decrease of sweetened beverages consumption and to promote instead the consumption of healthier drinks like milk and water. Is I mentionned in an interview in the French magazine « Protégez-vous« , in the May edition, the taxation of sweetened beverages and junk food could have a real impact on health and consumption only if there is an equivalent investment in making a better and cheaper availability of healthy food and drinks in our environment.