Reasonable Marketing Restrictions
Over 100 Canadian and international organizations along with many health experts across the country are calling on our governments to restrict food and beverage marketing to children, age 16 and younger. Together, we stand behind The Ottawa Principles, a set of definitions, scope and principles meant to guide marketing to kids restrictions in Canada.
Restricting food and beverage marketing to kids is not the “magic bullet” that will solve the unhealthy eating epidemic in Canada. But it is a low-cost, relatively easy and effective action that our governments can take to enable the success of other programs and actions to promote healthy eating.
It’s about restoring the power balance between the multinational corporations profiting from the sales and marketing of junk food, on the one hand, and parents, teachers and health educators on the other, working hard to teach kids healthy eating habits.
Why Self-Regulation Does Not Work
Developing restrictions in food and beverage marketing to children is one good step towards influencing children’s food preferences for the better.
Other complementary tactics are also needed. For instance:
- Taxing sugary drinks
- Improving nutrition labels on food and beverage products and mandating menu labelling in restaurants
- Regulating sodium content of processed foods
- Establishing healthy lunch programs in schools
- Encouraging farm-to-school initiatives and community gardens
- Educating children, youth and families about healthy cooking and eating-in particular consuming whole, unprocessed foods.
- Today in Canada, food and beverage companies make up their own rules with regard to food and beverage marketing to children.
- The Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Marketing Initiative was launched in 2007 by food and beverage companies. It currently has 17 member companies.
- Half of these companies pledged to stop advertising to children under 12.
- The other half promised to advertise only healthy foods to children.
- Each company has their own definitions of “marketing to children”, “children programming” and “healthy foods”
This approach is not working.
- Between 2006 and 2009, children’s exposure to food marketing on TV increased by 17% in Toronto and by 6% in Vancouver.
- The healthfulness of food advertising has not changed since the implementation of the pledges.
- The majority of foods and beverages advertised to children are still considered unhealthy and remain high in fat, sugar and salt.
- In television advertisements, there has been increasing use of spokes-characters such as Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger and licensed characters, such as Dora the Explorer, to help sell food products.
- Companies that are not part of The Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Marketing Initiative are completely unregulated.
Quebec has had legislation since the early 1980s to protect children from
- Under Quebec law, companies are not allowed to advertise to children under age 13. This advertising ban is not perfect but is having an impact:
- Children in Quebec see fewer food ads on television and in their schools than children in the rest of Canada.
- Some product categories such as children’s cereals and snack foods are not advertised on TV.
- Children are targeted by food ads less often.
- Spokes-characters and licensed characters are very rarely seen in children’s advertising.
- This type of regulation in Quebec is associated with decreased fast food consumption.
- Quebec has one of the highest fruit and vegetable consumption rates and the lowest childhood obesity rates among 6-11 year olds in Canada.
- In 2011, University of British Columbia’s researchers Drs. Tirtha Dhar and Kathy Baylis estimated the Quebec ban reduced fast-food consumption by US $88 million per year.