Montreal

Quebec to attack junk food in schools

Quebec says it will fight what it calls an "obesity epidemic" threatening young people by drastically reducing junk food in schools.

Quebec says it will fight what it calls an "obesity epidemic" threatening young people by drastically reducing junk food in schools.

Health Minister Philippe Couillard confirmed the government will announce new measures on Friday it hopes will reduce the amount ofjunk food consumed by young Quebecers.

"It's like tobacco. If you want to be sure that a young person is going to smoke, just tell him or her you can't smoke: it's forbidden. Guess what's going to happen," Couillard told CBC News on Wednesday.

"Part of it is restricting access to this type of food, but also [educating] parents," he said, adding educational measures encouraging healthy food habits will be central to the government's junk food plan.

"It's very important to fight junk food," Couillard said in an interview with the Canadian Press. "We have an obesity pandemic among our youth, which results in teen diabetes as seen at the Ste-Justine Hospital.

"The government is going to take the lead in the fight."

Montreal newspaper La Presse reported Wednesday the government's plan will include a ban on the sale of sweet soft drinks, chips and candy bars in school vending machines. Other foods such as poutine would be cut from school cafeteria menus.

Vegetables and fibre-rich foods would be offered instead, according to the report.

Couillard would not confirm whether an all-out ban on soft drinks and chips is part of the government's plan.

Premier Jean Charest pledged to curb junk food in schools in his inaugural speech at the national assembly last May.

With files from the Canadian Press