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
Industry self-regulation has failed. For the past 10 years industry has set its own standards and self-regulated its marketing, and food and beverage advertising to children has actually increased.
- The Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative is voluntary, and the nutrition standards are weak. For example, Lucky Charms, Froot Loops and Eggo Waffles are considered “better-for-you products.”
- Research reveals that three-quarters of the ads kids and teens see online for foods and beverages high in sugar, saturated fat or salt are from companies who participate in their own voluntary initiative.
- Legislation will level the playing field for industry. The companies who currently comply with the voluntary regulations place themselves at a competitive disadvantage, which has mean that voluntary regulations are weak and mostly ineffective.
This approach is not working.
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.
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’s restrictions on advertising to children have been shown to have a positive impact on nutrition by reducing fast food consumption in Quebec by 13%. This translates to 16.8 million fewer fast food meals sold in the province, and an estimated 13.4 million fewer fast-food calories consumed per year. Quebec also has the lowest rates of obesity among 5-17 year olds as well as the highest rates of vegetable and fruit consumption 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.
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