Oh Canada, We’re Not All Idiots

coffee cup

If you’re in Canada and you buy a coffee to go, chances are you’ll see some fine print somewhere on the takeout cup: “Warning: Contents could be very hot” or something like that. Every time I see those words, my blood pressure rises. You don’t say! I want to shout at no one in particular. Seriously, after forking out $3.75 for that latte I’m not about to forget what’s in the cup, especially for the length of time that it remains hot. That coffee is going straight into my mouth and nowhere else. Have I spilled coffee before? Yes, I have, and yes, I’ve also burned myself in the past, and a warning in miniscule font would not have changed that outcome. I wouldn’t have suddenly thought, “Oh, right, this cup is hot, so now I’m not going to spill it accidentally.”

Canada is a fantastic place to live, don’t get me wrong. But at times I get really irritated by the layer of protective bubble wrap that’s wrapped around us Canadians. There are rules and warnings for everything, as if the entire country has to be idiot-proofed in order for any of us to survive. I resent being told that my coffee is hot because, if someone is too dense to clue into that, they obviously shouldn’t be drinking coffee. And my kids, who are at the highest risk of knocking over a cup, can’t read yet. In Italy, you won’t find warnings painted on the sides of those little white Illy cups filled with scorching espresso. No, they assume you know what you’re doing. Imagine that.

At the Bulk Barn checkout yesterday, I asked the cashier about the store’s policy on bringing in reusable containers. After all, the whole idea behind Bulk Barn is to reduce cost by reducing wasteful packaging and, ever since reading this article on reducing household waste, I’m determined to become this town’s ‘jar lady’! The cashier looked at me in horror. “Oh no, you can’t use your own jars because that’s unsanitary. If you touch the edge of your own container with our almond butter paddle, you might contaminate it. The answer is no for health risks.”

Ah, yes, the good old ‘health risks’ excuse! The fact that their own plastic containers are stacked out on the open and that my fingers may touch the rim before filling it up is irrelevant. Even though I know she was simply reiterating company policy, I felt seriously tempted to snap, “You know what’s risky for health? Plastic! The proliferation of plastic garbage filling our earth and oceans, suffocating animals and fish, leaching phthalates and who knows what else into the environment. That’s what I’m more scared of. Not someone’s fingerprints on the edge of my almond butter container.” I didn’t tell her that I’d reused all my plastic bags for that day’s shopping trip.

I bet she’d be horrified by my house – not a single antibacterial cleaner in sight. I’m more scared of the carcinogenic ingredient triclosan than having a sterilized sink, which is also why I rarely let my kids use hand sanitizer. Shocking! I get tired of being told what’s safe for my health and what’s not. I’d like to make those decisions myself and, if that means spilling hot coffee on myself, so be it. Just stop telling me what to do.


7 thoughts on “Oh Canada, We’re Not All Idiots

  1. The warning is a CYA measure by companies who want to prevent getting caught in legal battles with actual idiots. They have a certain level of duty of care to fulfill when it comes to warning the public about the potential hazards of their products. Does a warning that coffee is hot seem a little over the top? Sure, because you buy it all the time and expect it to be hot. Does a warning that bleach is corrosive or that lighter fluid is flammable make you feel the same way? Those particular hazardous properties are the reason people buy them afterall. Anyway, try not to take the warnings personally. You should be bringing your own reusable mug anyway 😉

  2. It really has to do with our proximity to the US since they use their courts for often frivolous lawsuits. It’s much rarer in Canada, but since many companies in Canada are owned by Americans, (like Tim Hortons a few years ago), company policies are identical.
    As for the plastic containers at Bulk Barn, yours are probably just fine, but someone else’s might be poorly cleaned and full of bacteria. They can’t control it so they place a blanket ban on outside containers. Imagine the backlash if some of their products were contaminated by outside bacteria. (Think lysteria or e. coli). It makes business sense even if it doesn’t make environmental sense.

  3. My sister-in-law is a clean fanatic. She vacuums 3 times a day because one of the kids spilled chips, popcorn, etc, while watching TV. Her three children had more colds, flue, bronchitis, etc in the winter than my kids. Her house was too antiseptic and the children didn’t build up any antibiotics. Dirt and getting dirty (to an extend) is good for the kids.

  4. Everything is overwrapped and oversealed with plastic to a ridiculous degree. And now, with 3D printers on the way – people will be making their own plastic things. Great. Do we really need this stuff? The oceans are already filling up with plastic, as are the poor creatures that have to live there.

  5. It’s not just Canada. We get this kind of health and safety craziness in the UK too, maybe to a lesser extent, but when you buy a takeout coffee here, there is almost always a little warning on the side too. Also, I am always amused when I buy salmon for dinner and see the little sticker on the back: “Allergy advice: contains fish”. Uh, talk about stating the obvious?!

  6. I just had a conversation today that involved the CONTAINS: FDHLGIULA warnings just below the list of ingredients on food. Now, I don’t mind “MAY CONTAIN NUTS” if the food is packaged, etc., in a plant that also handles nuts, BUT when the ingredients on my barbeque sauce include mustard bran, there is NO NEED to write CONTAINS MUSTARD immediately below this information. If you have an allergy, then you should read the entire ingredient list. Not just the Cole’s Notes at the bottom.

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