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citizen-consumers, food information, health promotion, sustainable food systems, sustainability


Both health and sustainability are stated public policy objectives in Canada, but food information rules and practices may not be optimal to support their achievement. In the absence of a stated consensus on the purposes of public information about food, the information provided is frequently determined by the marketers of product. No institution or agency has responsibility for determining the overall coherence of consumer food messages relative to these broader social goals of health and sustainability. Individual firms provide information that shows their products to best advantage, which may contradict what is provided about the product by another firm or government agency. Individual consumers do not have the resources to determine easily the completeness of any firm's messages, particularly in light of the size of food industry advertising budgets. Government rules confound this problem because there is also little coherence between the parts of government that have responsibility for point of purchase, advertising rules, and labelling. The healthy eating messages of health departments are often competing with contradictory messages permitted by the regulatory framework of other arms of government. Investments in programs that successfully promote environmental stewardship in agriculture are undercut in the market because consumers cannot support those efforts with their dollars. This problem exists despite the emergence of “citizen-consumers” who have a broader approach to food purchasing than individual maximization. Only recently have some health professionals and sustainable agriculture proponents turned their attention to these factors and designed interventions that take them into account. In this paper, which builds upon earlier work by MacRae [1], we outline key short, medium and long term initiatives to facilitate the citizen-consumer phenomenon and better support consumers in their efforts to promote health and sustainability in the Canadian food system.


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences







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GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

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