Food and drink

October 16, 2021

Mexico proposes a 'soda tax' to combat obesity

Mexico is the latest country to propose a higher tax on soft drinks in an attempt to curb high obesity rates which is a growing worldwide problem.

The country's residents are the most obese adults in the world with 32.8 per cent of Mexicans deemed overweight, compared to 31.8 per cent of Americans, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hopes to raise $950 million for the country thanks to a proposed eight-cent (1 peso) per litre tax on soft drinks. Mexico's residents drink an astonishing 163 litres of soft drinks a year, one of the highest consumption rates in the world.

Overweight and obesity rates have risen around the globe with the likelihood of adults having one of these conditions rising to 34 per cent in 2008 from 24 per cent in 1980. Rates are increasing in every country, even in low-income countries where there's severe malnutrition, says the United Nations FAO.

Obesity isn't good for anyone's health, but it also puts a strain on a household's budget - whether it's through healthcare expenses or increased food costs. Weight increases can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer, as a few of the issues, which lead to a heavier strain on the country's healthcare system.

Countries have attempted to use a "fat tax" to improve the eating habits of residents. It's taking a page out of the book of tobacco control, which research shows that once cigarette prices rose by 50 per cent, smoking rates dropped.

Denmark is believed to be the first country to implement a "fat tax" in October 2011. The tax was added to food with more than 2.3 per cent of saturated fat, which included dairy, meat and processed foods. While the tax meant well, it was cancelled after about a year since it had a harmful effect on businesses and led Danish residents to cross the border to buy their junk food. The tax did manage to raise a revenue of $216 million, according to the New York Times.

In France, there was a backlash over a proposed "Nutella tax," which could have quadrupled the cost of food containing palm oil, such as Nutella. It was voted down.

Samoa Air, an airline company servicing the South Pacific, introduced the first-ever, pay-by-weight policy, which charges for a persons' baggage, along with their weight.

Unfortunately, obesity rates in Canada have climbed to record rates. The Ontario Medical Association has called for junk food taxes on unhealthy foods and cheaper taxes on healthy food option as some of the organization's recommendations.

Organizations continue to debate whether it's more or less expensive to eat healthy. While fruits and vegetables cost less compared to other high fat or high sugary foods, it depends on how you measure the price, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foods compared by price per calorie show that high-calorie processed foods are cheaper, while if food is compared by weight or portion size than healthier grain, fruit and vegetable and dairy options are more inexpensive.

Do you think a "fat tax" is a good or bad idea?

Josephine Lim, MSN Money

October 15, 2021

Are roadside "take what you want and pay what you owe" stands doomed?

For some time now, Cropthorne Farm on B.C.’s Lower Mainland has sold eggs on the honour system. They load up a cooler with about eight dozen eggs and put it at the end of their driveway with a sign reading “$5” and a jar filled with some change in to get things rolling.

Whether it's corn or apples, honour boxes like this remain a point of pride and practicality for a number of small farmers across the country who think their time is better spent tending crops than manning a roadside stand -- and who firmly believe that most people are honest.

And it would seem that many are. Despite the hundreds of vehicles that rush by, nobody has ever stolen a single egg, lifted the cash or even shortchanged owner, farm owner Lydia Ryall says.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the norm.

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October 10, 2021

How to split the bill when eating out at a restaurant

It’s been a good time all around. The food was delicious, the company entertaining – and then the bill arrives. That often means an awkward moment deciding whether to divide things evenly or whether to add up the cost of each person's meal.

Anyone going out to eat in a large group has to be ready for someone suggesting a simple division of the bill by the number of the people at the table, even though studies suggest that most diners prefer to pay individually for items they had.

What's worse, when groups do end up splitting the bill evenly, there's often some chintzy *%$#@ looking to take advantage by ordering a more expensive, and therefore subsidized, meal. But maybe you're better off ignoring that one.

But then out comes that coupon that's been burning a hole in someone's pocket. Should the dollar value  reduce the entire group bill, or only how much they pay individually?

Does it make any difference if it's a gift card; a Groupon-like voucher that they purchased; or a discount from a previous visit? Yes, says Presh Talwalkar, the mind behind the site Mind Your Decisions.

Here are his suggestions for handling that one.

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September 25, 2021

Ex-Trader Joe president plans to open grocery store selling 'expired' food

Would you buy “expired” food? Doug Rauch, an ex-president of Trader Joe’s, is hoping you will with his new store, The Daily Table, launching next year in Dorchester, Boston.

He plans to help with food waste by using groceries close to their expiry date or slightly past and transforming them into healthy meals, such as soup, salad and casseroles. The store will also have a teaching kitchen to teach people how to create easy, healthy meals. They will also sell milk that’s past it’s expired sell date for $1 a gallon, according to the Boston Globe.

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September 20, 2021

Starbucks didn't ban guns in the U.S., but these places did

7.Starbucks.Chris Ratcliffe.Bloomberg via Getty ImagesHey, did you hear that Starbucks (SBUX) is banning guns in its stores?

If you did, you heard wrong. All Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz did was politely ask customers not to bring loaded firearms into his stores or hold gun rallies or protests there.

No ban is in effect, and Schultz says employees won't confront customers who don't wish to comply with his request. Some of his exact words follow:

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August 20, 2021

Canadians entitled to settlement from class-action suit against yogurt maker

Yogurt-eating Canadians are now eligible for a little windfall from Danone Inc., thanks to a class-action lawsuit challenging the company's claims that Activia yogurt or DanActive probiotic drinks could aid digestion or prevent colds because of bacteria they contain.

During the proceeedings, Danone denied any wrongdoing, but ulitimately agreed to the settlement to avoid further court costs.

This is not the first time Danone has come under fire for its advertising practices on products. It settled a similar suit in the US as well.

Any class members in Canada who make a declaration that they purchased the products after April 1, 2021 and before November 6, 2012, will qualify for $30 in compensation, according to the terms of the agreement.

Anyone with an actual proof of purchase could qualify for up to $100, depending on the amount of yogurt they actually purchased.

To qualify, you need to fill out a claim form and send it in electronically to For further information, call 1-800-287-8587. 

The completed and signed Claim Form and the necessary supporting documents must be received before August 27, 2021.

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money

August 06, 2021

Which is preferable? Tipping by percentage or a flat rate?

While some people view tipping as an enforced wage subsidy, others see it as a reward for good service.

Either way, it's time to modify your approach, suggests Slate writer Brian Palmer, who feels the current practice is bad for both workers and consumers. And the factors that correlate most strongly to tip size have virtually nothing to do with the quality of service anyway, he maintains.

Credit card tips are larger than cash tips. Large parties with sizable bills leave disproportionately small tips. Plus, we tip servers more if they tell us their names or touch us on the arm

Instead, he suggests, tip a flat amount and announce your new tipping practice to your server as soon as you sit down.

"Virtually every other employee in America knows how much they’ll be paid up front, and somehow the man who sells me shoes and the woman who does my dry cleaning still manage to provide adequate service. I have no doubt waiters and waitresses are the same."

Is he on to something?

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July 09, 2021

88-year-old McDonald's worker lovin' it

A Welsh employee may be the fast-food chain's oldest. It beats staying at home bored senseless, he says.

When you envision your 88th birthday, where do you see yourself?

If the answer is "behind the counter at McDonald's," you're either an economic cynic that people regularly come up with excuses not to talk to at parties, or you're Welsh World War II veteran Bill Dudley, who may be the oldest McDonald's (MCD.TSX) employee in the world.

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July 05, 2021

It makes sense to buy local

It makes good sense to buy local food.

Not only are you getting fresh, great tasting products, but you are also supporting your local farmers and the economy.

I have to admit, it's hard to resist a roadside farmer's market with stands filled with juicy strawberries, peaches and cream corn, an assortment of fresh vegetables and even local cheese.

According to a new survey, Canadians are choosing to buy local because the food is fresh and tastes better, and it supports the local economy (97 per cent); it supports local farmers (96 per cent); it creates local jobs (93 per cent); it's better for the environment (88 per cent); it gives you the chance to purchase organic produce (76 per cent); and, it's cheaper (71 per cent).

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...