Click here for a PDF version of the Ottawa Principles.
See Who We Are for the current list of Ottawa Principle endorsers.
In 2014, Heart and Stroke and Childhood Healthy Living Foundation coordinated consultations among nationally recognized health opinion leaders, health professionals and researchers from across Canada to develop an evidence-based consensus policy recommendation called the Ottawa Principles (detailed below). The Ottawa Principles were informed by the World Health Organization’s 2010 recommendation and other evidence-based, international policy statements, which called on countries to take action to reduce the uncontrolled volume and excessive power of food and beverage marketing to children.
The Ottawa Principles were influential in the creation of Health Canada’s 2016 Healthy Eating Strategy, which has produced important changes to Canada’s Food Guide, food and beverage nutrition labelling, and more. As of 2023, the final pillar awaiting development is the restriction of food and beverage marketing to children.
The Ottawa Principles:
In Canada, policies and regulations to effectively protect children from commercial food and beverage marketing should:
1. AFFORD SUBSTANTIAL PROTECTION TO CHILDREN. Children are particularly vulnerable to commercial marketing. Policies and regulations need to be sufficiently powerful to provide them with a high level of protection. Child protection is the responsibility of every sector of society – parents and guardians, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and government.
2. BE STATUTORY IN NATURE. Only legally enforceable regulations have sufficient authority and power to ensure high-level protection of children from marketing and its persuasive influence over food preference and consumption. Industry self-regulation is not designed to achieve this goal and has proven insufficient.
3. TAKE A WIDE DEFINITION OF COMMERCIAL MARKETING. Policies and regulations need to encompass a broad range of commercial targeting of children (e.g. television advertising, print, competitions, loyalty schemes, product placements, celebrity endorsements, financial inducements and incentives, relationship marketing, games, packaging, Internet) and be sufficiently flexible to include new marketing methods as they evolve.
4. RESTRICT THE COMMERCIAL MARKETING TO CHILDREN IN CHILD-FOCUSED SETTINGS. Policies and regulations need to ensure that the commercial marketing to children (the specific types to be determined) is restricted in child-focused settings such as schools, childcare, early childhood education facilities, and sports and recreation centres.
5. TAKE ACTION TO MANAGE CROSS BORDER MEDIA. Cross-border media or communication channels, such as Internet, satellite and cable television, and free-to-air television broadcast from neighbouring countries, should be managed wherever possible. This is not a prerequisite for restrictions to be implemented.
6. BE EVALUATED, MONITORED, RESOURCED AND ENFORCED. Policies and regulations need to be independently evaluated to ensure the expected effects are achieved, independently monitored to ensure compliance, and fully resourced and enforced.
7. BE IDENTIFIED AND ENACTED QUICKLY THROUGH A MULTI-GOVERNMENT APPROACH. All levels of government are urged to take action, with a view to have full compliance, as soon as possible.
8. ENSURE GOVERNMENT IS A KEY STAKEHOLDER IN DEVELOPING POLICY. Governments should provide leadership in setting the policy framework, while protecting the public interest and avoiding conflict of interest.
9. ENSURE GOVERNMENT SETS CLEAR POLICY DEFINITIONS. The setting of clear definitions would facilitate uniform implementation and consistency, irrespective of the implementing body.