OTTAWA — The NDP is calling on the federal government to launch an emergency study into ways of better regulating high-sugar, alcoholic drinks after the death of a 14-year-old girl.
NDP health critic Don Davies told reporters Monday it's important for dangerous products, such as high-alcoholic drinks, to not be blatantly marketed to kids. He referenced the government's efforts to make upcoming marijuana packaging plain, suggesting a double standard.
"Right now we have alcohol products in this country that you'd never be able to market as cannabis or as tobacco," Davies said. "Why are we doing it for alcohol?"
Attention is being drawn to the issue after the body of Athena Gervais was found in a stream behind her Laval, Que. high school earlier this month.
She had reportedly stolen cans of a pre-mixed malt-liquor drink called FCKD UP and drank them before leaving school, according to La Presse.
Because the drink is sweet, people risk drinking more without knowing how much alcohol they've consumed. And at 11.9 per cent, it's alcohol content is similar to wine.
The Vancouver Kingsway MP said there's an urgency for Health Canada to better regulate caffeinated drinks spiked with high sugar and alcohol, especially now that's there's at least an indirect link to a documented death.
Davies urged the government to expedite consultations and move fast. "When you're talking about a product that is dangerous and can cause death, I don't think it's an issue that we can put off for years," he said.
He was joined by MPs Alexandre Boulerice and Brigitte Sansourcy as well as Gervais's father, Alain.
Health Canada proposes restriction
Drinks pre-mixed with alcohol and caffeine are illegal in Canada. But it's legal to sell drinks with ingredients that have caffeine, such as guarana, in pre-mixed alcoholic products for retail. FCKD UP contains guarana.
It was pulled from Quebec shelves shortly after Gervais's death.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced Monday there's work underway to crack down on drinks with seven to 12 per cent alcohol content.
"I am deeply concerned by the increasing availability and appeal of single-serve highly sweetened, high-alcohol beverages and by the increasing number of youth admitted to hospital after drinking these products," Petitpas Taylor said in a statement Monday.
Health Canada said it will propose consultations to make changes to the Food and Drug Regulations to add restrictions to the amount of alcohol in sweetened alcoholic drinks.
The department said its proposal will take aim to limit the size, amount of sugar and artificial sweetener, and alcoholic content of single-serve beverages in non-resealable containers.
According to Health Canada, liqueurs, dessert wines and other sweet alcoholic beverages in re-sealable containers won't be targeted by the proposal.
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