A Health Canada advertisement telling parents not to feed honey to infants has produced a swarm of protest from the nation’s beekeepers.
The controversial ad features a bottle of honey with a happy bear face. On the bottle is a red circle with a diagonal line through it. A caption reads: “Do you know that you should never give honey to a child under one?” The ad then refers parents to allergy and food-recall information on the Health Canada website.
The ad has appeared since December in several major magazines, includingChatelaine, Maclean’sandReaders Digest.
Beekeepers say they don’t oppose the message itself because there have been documented cases of honey causing botulism in babies. What they object to is the image on the bottle, said Rod Scarlett, Canadian Honey Council executive director.
“Unless you’re paying extremely close attention and reading all the fine print that goes with the image, one would assume that this red line through honey means don’t eat honey,” Scarlett said.
The advertisement created a flurry at the recent Manitoba Beekeepers Association convention in Winnipeg. Charles Polcyn, Red River Apiarists’ Association president, said producers “were just full of anger” when the offending ad was shown during a slide presentation at the meeting.
Some people were ready to sue the government. Instead, producers agreed on a letter-writing campaign to make Health Canada Minister Leona Aglukkaq aware of their concerns, Polcyn said.
“Certainly the minister should be aware that her campaign struck a very sore point with beekeepers.”
The CHC demanded the ad be pulled and redone to inform consumers that Canadian honey is safe and the risk of infant botulism is small.
CHC officials met with Health Canada assistant deputy minister Paul Glover in Ottawa March 14 to express their objections to the department’s campaign, including the fact that the industry was not consulted about it.
Scarlett said Glover promised to adjust the ad to say honey is a safe product for children over the age of one. However, it appeared the red circle with the diagonal line would stay. Health Canada also promised to consult more closely with the industry in the future.
“We got half of what we were looking for, which is better than nothing,” Scarlett said.
Polcyn said the ad would be better if it removed the red circle and had a bigger-size text.
“Because right now, it’s a warning: don’t eat honey.” [email protected]