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