Putting the squeeze on celebrity influence


How powerful is popular culture? It has tremendous influence on much of our daily lives, impacting everything from food choices and diets, to exercise, and what products we buy. Many of these choices our those we make to help our families lead healthy lives.

Dr. Timothy Caulfield would like to like to see governments, regulators, and consumers wrestle some of that influence from celebrities who tout everything from vinegar diets to colon cleanses and intravenous vitamin therapy.

Caulfield, a professor with the University of Alberta’s law and public health departments, tackled the topic in his book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? He says research shows these things “do not work, but despite this you have a multi-billion dollar diet industry that is largely driven by celebrity culture.”

Is it possible to reel in the stars and put the squeeze on celebrity culture? Caulfield addressed this challenge at the recent Farm & Food Care Ontario annual meeting last month. In this interview, Caulfield discusses how farmers and the agriculture industry can steal a page from the celebrity playbook to tell agriculture’s story to consumers.


He also talks about the need to put more teeth in advertising rules and the need to get governments and universities to issue policy statements about the “baloney and to empower the scientific community to become part of the discussion.”

“I would like to see more truth in advertising, but it’s hard,” says Caulfield. “The natural health industry is a powerful lobby. Recently, Health Canada has wanted to move to a more science-based approach with the regulation of natural health products, but that community mobilized and pushed hard against it. It’s not like everyone is on the same page. There are other voices out there who don’t want science to be the primary driver of regulation.”

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