Committee Calls for Restrictions to Content, Labelling, Marketing of Drinks

OTTAWA—A House of Commons committee is calling on the federal government to place severe restrictions on the contents and advertising of sugary alcoholic drinks.

A report tabled today recommends that Health Canada limit the alcohol, sugar, and caffeine content in the beverages.

Among 15 recommendations, the standing committee on health also calls for tough new labelling, packaging, and marketing rules.

The report comes after Health Canada held public consultations to decide whether to restrict the sales of the alcoholic drinks.

Federal officials have raised concerns that the alcohol content in the beverages is masked by their sugar, and that they encourage young people to binge drink.

Earlier this year, Quebec moved to ban high-sugar, high-alcohol drinks from grocery and convenience stores after a 14-year-old girl from Laval allegedly consumed the drink before her death.

Athena Gervais’ body was found in a stream behind her high school after she reportedly drank a beverage containing 11.9 percent alcohol—or the equivalent of four standard drinks in one serving.

The health committee cited Gervais’ death in its report, noting that the sale of beverages containing high amounts of sugar and alcohol has been on the rise across the country.

But it said hers was just one of hundreds of deaths that occur every year in Canada as a result of acute alcohol poisoning.

“It may be time for the government of Canada to consider an approach to alcohol regulation that is more in line with its efforts to prevent tobacco use,” the report said.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in March she was “deeply concerned” by the availability and appeal of the drinks and by the increasing number of youth being admitted to hospital after consuming the products.

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