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.
A missed opportunity: a snapshot of the history of Bill S-228 (the Child Health Protection Act)
From 2016-2019, the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition mobilized the voices of thousands to advocate for Bill S-228, a federal act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children, 12 years of age and under). It was introduced in 2016 and died on the Order Paper after Parliament dissolved for the federal election in 2019. Although the bill was not passed before Parliament dissolved, the Coalition continues to champion restrictions on marketing to kids. See below for more information on the history of Bill S-228.
September 27, 2016: Senator Nancy Greene Raine introduced the Child Health Protection Act (Bill S-228) — a bill that would ban the marketing of food and beverages primarily directed at children. Read more
September 28, 2017:Bill S-228 passed third reading in the Senate without amendments.
October 6, 2017: The House of Commons discussed Canada’s first federal bill to restrict food and beverage marketing to children.
December 12, 2017: Two amendments to Bill S-228 were introduced in the House of Commons:
- The age limit was amended from 16 and under to 12 and under, and a five-year post-legislation review mechanism was introduced.
- Community-level sports sponsorships would be exempted from the regulations.
September 19, 2018: Bill S-228 passed third reading in the House of Commons and was sent to the Senate with two minor amendments in October 2018.
June 21, 2019: The Senate of Canada adjourned for the summer and Bill S-228 was not called to a vote before the end of the Senate session. This was the final opportunity to pass Bill S-228, and as a result, the bill died on the Order Paper when Parliament was dissolved for the 2019 federal election.
Additional Information and Resources:
- News Coverage: Dr. Potvin Kent (2018). Canadian kids see thousands of ads for unhealthy food on social media study
- Obesity Policy Coalition: International Comparisons on unhealthy food and beverage marketing restrictions.
- World Health Organization: Taking Action on Childhood Obesity Report
- World Health Organization: Marketing of foods high in fat, salt, and sugar to children
- M2K News Stories: Coalition in the News
- Heart Month 2017: The Kids Are Not Alright
- Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition: Webinar series