By Urban Anomie
The Canadian government has stepped up its efforts to sort out the peanut butter crisis gripping millions of people in the country, in response to widespread reports of malnutrition and depression since Jif peanut butter abandoned the Canadian market in 2010.
Today, some 122,000 people—mostly children—in Alberta, Ontario, and the Maritimes are severely malnourished, according to the Canadian Peanut Butter Commission (CPBC). Acute malnutrition rates are highest in Alberta, at 22.7 percent, while Manitoba, at 9.3 percent, has the lowest, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“The difficulty begins with the fact that many children have more advanced food palates than we ever gave them credit for,” Gerard Cohen of the CPBC told Urban Anomie. Everybody thought that kids would just eat any old kind of shit peanut butter and they’d be happy. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.”
While it’s not only kids who are suffering from the affects of being left with nothing but mediocre peanut butter on store shelves, it is kids who are most susceptible to health-related conditions, the CPBC says.
In Ottawa, government officials admit they’ve been slow to react, but promise to do everything in their power to remedy the situation.
“Our response to the peanut butter crisis has been very slow compared to the number of kids who live off peanut butter,” said Melinda Dorne, Minister of Public Health. “Honestly, nobody could have foreseen the dire consequences of Smucker’s pulling Jif from the shelves in this country.”
J.M. Smucker’s, who bought Jif from Procter and Gamble in 2001, decided to pull the line of deliciously unparalleled peanut butter from Canadian shelves in 2010, after slow sales in a cut-throat peanut butter market.
Meanwhile, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has declared peanut butter crisis conditions in neighbouring provinces of B.C., Saskatchewan, and the NWT.
The Canadian federal government has responded by applying pressure to retailers and distributers. In addition, a letter has been sent to President Obama asking him to intervene on behalf of Canadians.
Junior health minister Jeff Sansa said any relief could take months, but says that in the meantime, Kraft or Skippy peanut butter won’t kill you, despite their slimy, greasy texture and utterly horrid taste.
“[Smucker’s] obviously did a poor job of marketing Jif in Canada,” says Aldo Ferrero, a business professor at the University of Calgary. “How many times did you ever see a Jif commercial or print advertisement? I never did.”
In addition, Jif was priced higher than its competitors, a factor that played a role in slow sales, says Ferrero.
“Kraft has eight zillion types of peanut butter on store shelves. That company is throwing everything at the wall they can think of to see what will stick, while Jif only ever offered two types up north: smooth and crunchy. It was likely a tactic by Kraft to squeeze out the superior product.”
As of mid-July, Calgarian, Roger Drake, 43, says he had to go without Jif Crunchy peanut butter, which he last bought while on a business trip in California, and has lost an astounding 38 pounds.
“It’s bad enough that the children are starving, but I am starving, and that is much, much worse,” said Drake. “I’ve been in contact with Smucker’s about sending me some Jif, but they’ve not responded.”
Drake says he will keep trying, but his hopes of the peanut butter crisis in Canada coming to an end get slimmer by the day.
“If something isn’t done, I fear it’s only a matter of time before people—children!—start to die from starvation.”
Paul Norton of the Canadian Food Council says Canadians need to take a proactive approach in bringing Jif back to Canada.
“Email MPs, write newspapers, call Smucker’s and tell them of your displeasure,” says Norton.
“The federal government needs to politicize this effort, and the assistance of Canadians in this matter should be chief among (political) party platforms by the same officials Canadians entrusted with the delivery of quality food supplies,” Norton told Urban Anomie.
Norton says to help put an end to the peanut putter crisis, Canadians can call Smucker’s Canada at 1-800-567-1897 and tell the company they want Jif sold in Canada once again.