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Tell Food Industry Our Kids are Not Their Business

On January 6, 2008, I lost a vibrant, healthy and much loved 15-year-old son.  I believe a contributing cause to his death was consumption of an energy drink sample at a sporting event.  You can read more about my son’s death on my facebook awareness page.

Industry marketed directly to my son.

Since then, I have done extensive research on the potentially fatal effects of energy drinks and marketing to kids. Three deaths associated with energy drinks are documented in Health Canada’s database, all teenage deaths (1). It has been estimated that for every adverse report filed, up to ten go unreported. My research strongly suggests the unreported number may be much higher.

Experts continue to question the safety of energy drinks’ ingredient cocktail, not just their caffeine content. There are no long-term studies that prove the safety of energy drinks. On the contrary, emerging research strongly suggests they pose a public health threat. In 2010, Health Canada appointed an Expert Panel on Caffeinated Energy Drinks. They came back with very strong recommendations to mitigate safety concerns related to these products most of which were never addressed.

Energy drinks are the worst case example of industry marketing an unhealthy – and potentially dangerous product – to children and youth. This must stop.

My three primary goals are to:

  1. Protect children and youth from the potentially fatal effects of energy drinks. First, by treating these products like tobacco, alcohol, and fireworks, through a ban on sale to minors. Second, through federal legislation restricting the commercial marketing of foods and beverages to children.
  2. Raise awareness of the potential dangers of energy drinks through education programs, point of sale signage, and separate shelf placement.
  3. Encourage more research on the health risks associated with caffeinated energy drinks.

Currently, there is nothing to stop industry from marketing to another young member of my family. This must change. Voluntary self-regulation by industry of marketing to children has proven an abysmal failure. Regulations with stiff penalties are needed to mitigate the risk energy drinks and their abusive marketing pose to children and youth.

I’ve voiced my concerns on several occasions and continue this dialogue with all levels of government in Canada. On June 8, 2010, I appeared as a witness in Ottawa before the Standing Committee on Health. More recently, I presented to the Toronto Board of Health (March 20, 2017), and the Ottawa Board of Health (April 3, 2017).

On January 6, 2016, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau, I offered my strong support for the Liberal campaign promise to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. I implored the Prime Minister to give special consideration to energy drinks and related caffeinated energy products when developing those regulations. More so, I stressed that children and youth are bombarded with the adventurous and trendy marketing associated with these drinks. Teenagers must also be protected from abusive marketing, not just those 12 and under.

No other family should have to live with the questions that my family does. Sadly, I have connected with several others families who have shared similar losses, more than one of them in Canada. They all share my suspicions.

I urge you to take action.  Tell government to restrict the commercial marketing of foods and beverages to children and youth. Send an e-card to your MP letting them know marketing to kids must stop. Together, our message is stronger. Food and beverage companies must be told, our kids are not their business.

By Jim Shepherd

Reference

  1. Canada Vigilance Summary of Reported Adverse Reactions. Canadian Vigilance Database. Health Canada. December 19, 2013. Accessed via: CanadaVigilance@hc-sc.gc.ca

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We Need To Use Every Tool To Fix Our Unhealthy Diets

The Huffington Post | Yves Savoie, CEO of Heart & Stroke

We need to use every tool to fix our unhealthy diets It is encouraging to see federal government moving in several important areas to help Canadians make better food and beverage choices We can’t cure heart disease or diabetes. But we can help prevent or delay them and other chronic illnesses in one vital way — with a healthier diet. Read more… 

 

 

Trevor Hancock: Protect our kids from unhealthy advertising

Times Colonist

Which brings me to the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to our kids, especially sugar-rich products they do not need and that are contributing to the epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Here is another situation where government is not doing enough to protect us from harm. Read article here… 

Junk-food ban in Canadian schools is working, study finds

The Canada Press // Toronto Star – Michael McDonald
New research has found that students exposed to a school junk-food ban have a lower BMI on average than those who are not. Read more… 

Action on restricting marketing to kids happening now

All levels of government can protect children from exposure to food and beverage marketing – and we already have examples of innovative provinces and municipalities taking action!

Recognizing that a national response was required to the steady increase in childhood obesity, the Ministers of Health and Health Promotion/Healthy Living endorsed Curbing Childhood Obesity – A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights (2010). One of the policy areas identified was to decrease the marketing of foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and/or sodium to children and progress is reported in a biennial e-report.

On the provincial front, Quebec was an early leader globally in protecting children from advertising through their Consumer Protection Act.  With legislation being introduced in the early 1980s, companies were no longer allowed to advertise to children under age 13.

Also noteworthy, in Ontario, the Healthy Kids Panel report (2012) made a recommendation to change the food environment including banning the marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, beverages and snacks to children under age 12. Recently, this recommendation was endorsed by over 25 organisations that collaborated on the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy.

At the municipal level, the Toronto Board of Health has shown committed action for over 30 years, advocating for comprehensive restrictions on commercial marketing targeted at children. It is no surprise with this commitment that Toronto Public Health is a supporting member of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition. Last year, Toronto Board of Health used their voice to support the federal ban on marketing to kids and continues to raise awareness about the importance of restricting marketing to kids.

Other municipalities are also taking action to restrict marketing to kids by endorsing the Ottawa Principles or exploring municipal policy options including the Middlesex-London and Ottawa public health boards.

There is still more to be done at all levels of government in Canada to protect children from marketing of food and beverages, but action is taking place. Find out more about how individuals, schools, communities and governments can get involved in the Heart and Stroke Report on the Health of Canadians.

By Elizabeth Holmes, Health Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society

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5 actions government can take to protect children from food and beverage marketing

Government action is necessary to protect children from exposure to food and beverage marketing. The federal government has taken a great step forward by committing to introduce restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, but action is also important at the provincial and municipal level. Here are five ways governments can take action to support parents and from the harmful effects of food and beverage marketing:

  1. Restrict exposure to food and beverage marketing in public places where children gather including childcare settings, schools and school grounds, libraries, public transit, recreation centres, parks, playgrounds, sporting or cultural activities, as well as hospitals.
  2. Conduct a review of food and beverage marketing and sole-sourced contracts. Results can help provide a clearer understanding of marketing in child-focused settings and can highlight opportunities to create healthier food environments.
  3. Endorse the Ottawa Principles which call for the restriction of commercial marketing of all food and beverages to children aged 16 and under, with the exception of non-commercial marketing for public education.
  4. Review zoning restrictions close to child-focused settings including schools and playgrounds, in existing neighbourhoods and in new developments as they are planned. It is easier to put restrictions in place before new schools and child-focused settings are built instead of after the fact.
  5. Educate Canadians about the risks associated with unhealthy food and beverage consumption through public awareness and education campaigns. Provincially, media literacy can be included as part of school curriculum to address marketing to children.

Check out some of the ways that innovative Canadian provinces and municipalities are already taking action here. Let’s build on this momentum. Send an e-card and let your MP know that stopping marketing to kids is important to you and call on them to take action.

By Elizabeth Holmes, Health Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society
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