Financing the transition

Identifying how to finance the transition from one consumer information regime to another is tricky because the savings are primarily from reduced health care expenses (improved population health, meaning reduced provincial government and health insurance expenditures) while the increased program expenses are associated with primarily federal governmental units (primarily AAFC, HC and CFIA)  and private firms (though they can recoup some, if not all, of their added costs through the market). However, given the size of Canadian health care budgets, even modest savings can be very significant.

The federal government is required to conduct regulatory impact statements on nutrition labeling. These have focused, understandably, on existing proposals and are therefore in the Efficiency category. They show savings based on population health improvements associated with better, more accessible consumer information.  Often, they assume very modest reductions in health care costs and population health (e.g., 1%), yet still, show significant savings. So one level of government has to be willing to invest in new initiatives knowing that the benefits will accrue across the system.

Businesses complain about labeling changes because of impacts on packaging costs. Often buy in bulk up front, so it is legitimate to have some lead times. It also means that product reformulations are often required which imposes R&D costs on businesses. Some businesses will lose out if they can't adapt to the new regulatory environment, but that's what we need to improve health.

Presumably, such impact statements would also need to be developed for Substitution and Redesign stages. As is typically the case for these stages, the adjustments are more pronounced relative to the current state, but because they build progressively on Efficiency stage actions, shifts are not as dramatic on those that have been enacted. There will be more entrenched opposition to them, for example advertising firms will object, as will actors. The hope, of course, is that the benefits will be as enhanced as the adjustments and the net impacts will again be positive.