Canadian kids see thousands of ads for unhealthy food on social media: study


  • “Nearly three-quarters of Canadian children are exposed to food marketing while using popular social media apps, a new study from the University of Ottawa found.”
  • The study found that children see almost 6,000 ads per year on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube), the majority of which promote “ultra-processed foods and beverages high in fat, salt or sugar…”. The study found that “85 percent of the food and beverage products advertised were categorized as ultra-processed, while 97 per cent were products deemed high in fat, sodium, or sugar.”
  • “Sometimes kids are actually sending food and beverage ads to other children” (Dr. Potvin Kent – video).
  • “With digital food and beverage marketing parents are not aware because you’re not sitting beside your child all the time… when kids are watching TV you do tend to be more aware but it’s really important that parents know what their child’s exposure is on social media. Technically children aren’t supposed to be on social media, you’re supposed to be 12 or 13 before you can even have an account but many kids as young as 7 have accounts…” (Dr. Potvin Kent – video)
  • “This level of exposure may greatly influence children’s perception of a normal diet, as well as their food preferences and the foods they actually consume” (Dr. Monique Potvin Kent)
  • “Despite the extensive body of evidence that shows food marketing shapes children’s dietary behaviours, Canada currently lacks formal regulations marketing junk food to children outside of a traditional broadcast environment.” Rather, 18 large companies, including Coca Cola, Kraft, and McDonalds, created the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising initiative which committed to advertising “healthier” products to children under 12. Bill S-228 “seeks to amend the Food and Drug Act to restrict marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children”.

Retweet Heart & Stroke

Not your grandmother’s commercials: ‘Kidvertising’ in the digital age 

Ottawa Citizen 

  • “A new study by University of Ottawa researchers [lead by Dr. Monique Potvin Kent] found that 72 per cent of children and youth were exposed to food marketing through social media in a single 10-minute window.” The research suggests that “young social media users are exposed to more than 12 food and beverage snacks every hour [and about] 90 per cent of the products promoted in these ads are unhealthy.”
  • “These are not your grandmother’s commercials. Food and beverage manufacturers have neuropsychologists working with them. They use MRIs. It’s hard to defend yourself against ads.” (Dr. Potvin Kent)
  • “We have seen a huge proliferation of ads online. Entertainment is blended with marketing. It’s hard for children to understand that they’re being marketed to” (Dr. Potvin Kent)
    · While studies have shown that children have brand awareness by age two, they start to recognize something as an ad by age six and do not begin to think critically about what they view until age 11 or 12.
  • Children also use social media to follow their favourite products and encourage their friends to do so as well and are therefore “…doing the work of a marketing firm…” (Dr. Potvin Kent).
  • “Children 11, 12 and 13 years old are doing the work of a marketing firm when they’re forwarding things to their friends,” said Dr. Potvin Kent. 
  • If Bill S-228 becomes law, “Health Canada would be responsible for creating the regulations around it. ‘There is no silver bullet, but this will help,’ said [Nancy Greene] Raine”.
  • Nancy Greene Raine stated: “The advertisers know it works. If you create a customer by the age of 10, you have a dedicated customer for life.” 

Retweet CDPAC 

Open Letter: Federal Government Healthy Eating Strategy

The Hill Times

    • An open letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed by the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Medical Association, Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, Diabetes Canada and Heart & Stroke
    • The letter congratulates Prime Minister for efforts on Healthy Eating Strategy and urging the federal government to complete the commitment to the federal Healthy Eating Strategy prior to the end of the government’s term. In particular, this letter focuses on the need for a “simple, clearly visible and easy to understand front-of-package nutrition labeling (FOP) is important to ensure consumers can quickly grasp nutrition information and to support them to make healthier choices”
    • “This strategy will do much to help people living in Canada to eat healthy, reduce the incidence of diet-related disease/illness and consequently provide savings to the healthcare system and the economy”

Retweet Dietitians of Canada

Canada’s artificial trans fats ban comes into effect

Health Canada announced earlier this week that it’s ban on artificial trans fats in food products is now in effect, as of Monday, September 17, 2018. Its is now illegal for Canadian food manufacturers to add artificial trans fats to any food sold in Canada. This includes imported foods as well as in any meals prepared in restaurants.

The ban targets partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, which are the main source of industrially produced trans fats in all foods sold in Canada. As noted by Manual Arango, Director of Health Policy & Advocacy at Heart & Stroke “Trans fats cause a three-fold increase in the risk of death from heart disease and the ban is expected to cut that risk down… The government has made a decision that the shelf-life of Canadians is more important than the shelf-life of croissants”.

This ban is consistent with global efforts and an important component of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice the easier choice for people living in Canada.

See below for interviews with Manuel Arango, Director of Policy and Promotion at Heart & Stroke.

CTV | September 17, 2018 | Canada’s trans fat ban comes into effect

CBC | September 16, 2018 | Canada’s artificial trans fats ban comes into effect — with a phase-out period

The kids are not alright: Youth bombarded with food and drink marketing, says Healthy Kids Community Challenge Burlington’s Amanda McKeown

Child Health Protection Act just the start of healthier food environments for kids

The Toronto Star

“This legislation is a huge step forward for child health in Canada, one that all parents should welcome and support.”
—Mary L’Abbé, Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, University of Toronto.

Tweet Suggestions:
Include the hashtag #Marketing2Kids in your tweets and tag Mary L’Abbé’s Research Lab: @LAbbeLab_UofT

Retweet CDPAC: link to tweet
Retweet Diabetes Canada: link to tweet
Retweet Heart & Stroke: link to tweet

Conquering childhood obesity will take legislative action, conference told

CBC News

Great article by CBC, following the Promoting Healthy Weights in Children Conference in Moncton this week. The article includes quotes by Yoni Freedhoff and Sarah Kirk, and support for legislation to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to kids.

“The issue, in part, is because of the world we are now living in, where junk food is constant and pervasive and almost impossible to avoid,” – Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa.
“A food culture that’s made junk food the norm for many children has to change. But getting junk food out of the childhood diet will require legislative change, just as cutting tobacco use did,” says Dr. Yoni Freehoff.
Sample Tweet:
Retweet Heart & Stroke and tag @YoniFreedhoff 

Liberals insist junk food ad bill won’t hurt sports sponsorships


 The Liberal government plans to amend a Senate public bill that would ban advertising junk food to children under the age of 17. … Industry had also raised concerns that the original wording of the bill could have hurt sports sponsorships in Canada, but that was stripped out before it cleared the Senate. Read full article

Nutrition Experts Optimistic About New Canada Food Guide to Be Released This Spring

The Epoch Times

“A food policy issue both experts agree on is the new legislation banning the advertising of unhealthy foods to children. The Child Health Protection Act is now in its second reading in the House of Commons and is set to be passed this year”. Read article…



Front-of-package symbols proposed for foods high in sodium, sugar, saturated fat

Waterloo Chronicle

The federal government wants to make it easier for consumers to choose healthy foods with front-of-package warnings on items that contain high levels of sodium, sugar or saturated fat — ingredients linked to chronic health problems like obesity, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Petitpas Taylor was accompanied at the news conference by representatives of health advocacy groups such as Diabetes Canada, Dieticians of Canada and the Canadian Public Health Association, as well as the Retail Council of Canada. They lauded the proposed warning labels. Read the full article here.