Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 109, Issue 4, pp 498–505 | Cite as

Are young Canadians supportive of proposed nutrition policies and regulations? An overview of policy support and the impact of socio-demographic factors on public opinion

  • Jasmin Bhawra
  • Jessica L. Reid
  • Christine M. White
  • Lana Vanderlee
  • Kim Raine
  • David Hammond
Quantitative Research



Many countries, including Canada, are considering nutrition policies that seek to improve dietary behaviour and related health outcomes. The current study examined support for policy measures among youth and young adults in Canada.


Participants aged 16–30 years were recruited for online surveys using in-person intercept sampling in five Canadian cities as part of the Canada Food Study conducted in October–December, 2016 (n = 2729). Items included support for 21 specific policies in seven key areas: menu labelling, food package symbols and warnings, school policies, taxation and subsidies, zoning restrictions, marketing bans, and food formulation. Linear regression models examined support by age, sex, city, race/ethnicity, parental status, body mass index (BMI), and health literacy.


Very high levels of support were observed for menu labelling in restaurants and schools, as well as food package symbols and warnings. Taxation, zoning restrictions (e.g., fast food and convenience stores near schools), and bans on marketing to children received relatively lower levels of support. In general, policy support increased with age for all 21 policies (p < 0.01) and greater health literacy for 4 policies (p < 0.05). Males were less supportive than females for 5 policies (p < 0.01). There were significant differences in support for specific race/ethnicity groups for 4 policies (p < 0.05). Support for menu labelling policies increased with BMI (p < 0.05).


Overall, youth and young adults in Canada reported high levels of support for menu labelling, food package symbols/warnings, and school policies. Levels of support were generally consistent across socio-demographic subgroups, with some exceptions.


Nutrition policy Policy support Public opinion Canada 



De nombreux pays, dont le Canada, envisagent des politiques nutritionnelles pour améliorer les comportements alimentaires et les résultats de santé qui y sont liés. Notre étude porte sur l’appui des jeunes et des jeunes adultes canadiens aux mesures envisagées par les pouvoirs publics.


Des participants de 16 à 30 ans (n = 2729) ont été recrutés pour des sondages en ligne par échantillonnage sur place dans cinq villes canadiennes dans le cadre de l’Étude sur les aliments au Canada menée d’octobre à décembre 2016. Les questions ont porté sur leur appui à 21 mesures particulières dans sept grands domaines : l’étiquetage des menus, les symboles et les mises en garde sur les emballages alimentaires, les politiques scolaires, la fiscalité et les subventions, les restrictions de zonage, les interdictions de commercialisation et la formulation des produits alimentaires. Des modèles de régression linéaire ont permis d’examiner les appuis selon l’âge, le sexe, la ville, la race ou l’ethnicité, la situation parentale, l’indice de masse corporelle (IMC) et la littératie en santé.


Nous avons observé de très hauts niveaux d’appuis à l’étiquetage des menus dans les restaurants et les écoles, ainsi qu’aux symboles et aux mises en garde sur les emballages alimentaires. La fiscalité, les restrictions de zonage (p. ex. à la présence d’aliments de restauration rapide et de dépanneurs près des écoles) et les interdictions de commercialisation auprès des enfants ont recueilli des niveaux d’appui relativement moindres. En général, l’appui aux 21 mesures augmentait avec l’âge (p < 0,01), et l’appui à quatre mesures particulières augmentait avec la littératie en santé (p < 0,05). Les répondants de sexe masculin étaient moins en faveur de cinq mesures particulières que les répondantes (p < 0,01). Quatre mesures particulières ont recueilli des appuis sensiblement différents selon les groupes raciaux ou ethniques (p < 0,05). L’appui à l’étiquetage des menus augmentait avec l’IMC (p < 0,05).


Dans l’ensemble, les jeunes et les jeunes adultes canadiens expriment de hauts niveaux d’appui à l’étiquetage des menus, aux symboles et aux mises en garde sur les emballages alimentaires et aux politiques scolaires. Les niveaux d’appui sont généralement les mêmes dans toutes les strates de population, à quelques exceptions près.


Politique nutritionnelle Appui aux réformes Opinion publique Canada 


Funding source

This project has been made possible through funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Additional funding for this project has been provided by a PHAC—Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair in Applied Public Health, which supports Professor Hammond, staff, and students at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Vanderlee is a CIHR Banting Postdoctoral Fellow.

Compliance with ethical standards

Consent was provided electronically before completing the survey. The study was reviewed by and received ethics clearance through the University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee (ORE# 21631).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jasmin Bhawra
    • 1
  • Jessica L. Reid
    • 1
  • Christine M. White
    • 1
  • Lana Vanderlee
    • 2
  • Kim Raine
    • 3
  • David Hammond
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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