This past weekend, the Canadian government put out a call to all Canadians to weigh-in on what they want to eat.
A “public consultation” on a government strategy might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world. But this time it really is! Every Canadian is being asked to elect the breakfast, lunch and dinner they want to see on their plate for years to come. And take part in re-shaping the food system and food environment.
Right now, there are two things the government wants Canadians’ view on:
1. Rules to restrict marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and youth.
This is a huge opportunity to protect the youngest members of our society. It would put in place real roadblocks to companies wishing to sell kids junk food, and the poor health we know it comes packed full of.
Why does this matter now more than ever? Because we know our kids are bombarded with ads for unhealthy, highly processed foods and beverages all day, every day: 90% of products marketed to kids and teens on TV and online are high in salt, fat or sugar. That’s a fact. We also know marketing influences children’s food preferences and choices and drives consumption of unhealthy food and beverages (1, 2).
But don’t just take our word for it, Health Canada says today’s marketers “leverage an intricate understanding of how the placement of products on shelves influences purchasing decisions, how the use of celebrity endorsements drives brand loyalty, and myriad other sophisticated techniques to help sell their products.”
Junk food marketing is EVERYWHERE! It lives alongside kids favourite television shows, on their smartphone apps, and basically everywhere they go.
- In schools, branded vending machines make junk food brands second nature for kids who pass their smiling, shiny packaging daily.
- On the soccer field, sponsorship logos adorn uniforms.
- And at the grocery store, mascots and free toys call out from food packages.
Marketing is inescapable, and baked into everyday experiences. As adults, we have the tools to filter out all the junk food noise. But kids? How can they tell when their favourite cartoon characters are telling them delightful bedtime story, versus sell them poor health?
That’s why Health Canada says “research shows these tactics influence what they eat from an early age and lay the foundation for unhealthy eating habits.” It’s unfair, and it puts parents between a rock and a hard place: “It has become increasingly hard for parents to compete with these marketing messages or to completely control their children’s exposure to marketing. Because of its pervasiveness, most parents are not even aware of the extent to which their children are exposed to these advertisements, or the impacts on them. Parents and caregivers deserve a supportive environment where children are not constantly targeted by unhealthy food marketing.”
2. Revisions to Canada’s Food Guide.
This is the menu of all menus. The go-to guide for individuals and families on what to eat. It’s also the rule book for schools, ensuring that when they’re setting the table for kids, that table is the healthiest of all.
It’s high time the Food Guide reflected what nutritionists and dieticians have long been calling for: the removal of juice from the fruit and vegetable category.
“The Food Guide is an important and much used resource. Updating it and making it more digestible will have a real impact on improving the health of all Canadians,” says Yves Savoie, CEO, Heart & Stroke Canada.
Both consultations run from June 10 – July 25, 2017 and can be accessed online: Restricting marketing to children and Revision of Canada’s Food Guide. Both are key components of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to improve healthy eating information; strengthen labelling and claims; improve the nutrition quality of foods; protect vulnerable populations; and support increased access to and availability of nutritious foods.
Don’t miss the opportunity to define a healthier future, Canada!
Sadeghirad B, Duhaney T, Motaghipisheh S, Campbell NCR, Johnston BC. Influence of unhealthy food and beverage marketing on children’s dietary intake and preference: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Obesity Reviews 2016;17(10):945-959.
Boyland EJ, Nolan S, Kelly B, Tudur-Smith C, Jones A, Halford JCG, et al. Advertising as a cue to consume: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of acute exposure to unhealthy food and nonalcoholic beverage advertising on intake in children and adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016;103(2):519-533.