There is strong agreement amongst leading Canadian pediatric and allied health organizations that the impact of food and beverage marketing is real, significant and harmful to children’s development. Over 120 organizations and children’s health advocates across the country are calling on our governments to restrict food and beverage marketing to kids. Together, we stand behind the Ottawa Principles, a set of definitions and principles meant to guide restrictions in Canada.
Industry self-regulation has failed
For the past 10+ years, the industry has set its own standards and self-regulated its marketing; yet food and beverage advertising to children has 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 restricting marketing to kids works
Quebec has had legislation for decades. People in Quebec have the highest fruit and vegetable consumption, are less likely to purchase junk food, and Quebec has the lowest childhood obesity rate in Canada despite low physical activity rates.
More can be done
Diet-related diseases are anything but simple. Restrictions to food and beverage marketing to kids are not a magic bullet, but a critical component of a multi-pronged strategy to protect children and to support parents who are trying to instill healthy eating habits in their kids. Restrictions are seen as a relatively easy, low-cost, and effective action that our governments can take to enable the success of other programs and actions to promote healthy eating. In fact, in 2016 the Minister of Health launched a Healthy Eating Strategy as part of the Government’s vision for a healthy Canada that included restricting the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids.
All levels of government and leaders in a community can play a role in restricting marketing to kids. This includes restricting 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.
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.
—> Visit our Take Action page for ways to get involved and help create a healthier future for children in Canada.