By Monika Hotson, Health Promotion Student
Health Canada has decided to put restrictions on the marketing of foods and beverages to children. Canadians may have many questions as to what is being proposed and the purpose of these changes. Here are some answers to potential common questions:
Why restrict marketing food and drinks to children?
There are a few reasons why restricting marketing to children is a good idea. First and foremost there has been a dramatic increase of childhood obesity in Canada’s population.
- Since 1980 obesity rate in children and youth has nearly tripled.
- Today, nearly 1 in 3 Canadian children between the ages of 6 and 17 are either overweight or obese.
- Overweight children are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and a range of other health problems.
- Overweight and obese children can also carry an emotional burden as they can have altered self-esteem; been made a target of bullying; and this may effect school performance.
The rise in childhood obesity is linked with the negative changes in our eating habits. We have had a very dramatic increase in our consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium. Studies show that children are easily influenced and advertisements have a large impact on the foods they choose to eat. As a result, the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages has been identified as a major contributor to childhood obesity. This restriction has hopes to encourage healthy eating in children to decrease the number of child obesity cases in Canada. The restriction of marketing is part of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy that is geared to influence a healthy pattern of eating.
How do we know this will be successful in improving health?
Well, other countries/provinces have been successful. For instance, in 1980 Quebec created a ban on all advertisement to children of under 13 years of age. Studies have shown positive result due to reducing children’s exposure to these advertisements in Quebec. In fact, Statistics Canada’s data indicated that Quebec has the lowest childhood obesity rates in Canada.
What is being restricted?
Health Canada proposes that the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages be restricted for children under the age of 17. Health Canada has created two approaches to define what should be considered “unhealthy food”. Each approach sets limits on the marketing of foods containing certain levels of saturated fat, sugars or sodium. The two proposed approaches either restrict foods and beverages that have more than 5% of the daily value or more than 15% of daily value of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Health Canada has created a sample chart to show which kinds of items would be restricted with both approaches.
Health Canada needs to determine which approach they would like to take in regards to what is being restricted and develop the legislation. They have received feedback from the public to determine which approach would suit Canada best. For more information regarding the restriction of unhealthy foods and beverages to children view the discussion paper for public consultation regarding this restriction.