Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Canadian Senate Bill Calls For a Ban on Marketing Food to Kids

It's shocking that we allow anything to be advertised to young children, but its doubly shocking we allow "food" to be advertised to them. I put the word food in scare quotes because frankly given what's generally advertised to children, calling it food is generous. Sure it's technically consumable, but it's far from healthy fare. Here in Canada, and the world around, the foods advertised to children (and adults too I might add) are unsurprisingly dominated by the food industry's profit drivers - ultra-processed foods laden with salt, sugar, and/or fat, because it's not the food industry's job to promote healthy eating, it's the food industry's job to profit.

The thing is, times have changed. Whereas when I watched the Kool Aid Man crash through walls during commercials running through Saturday morning cartoons, today's kids are watching far more sophisticated commercials running nearly 24/7 on multiple media platforms. Worse, the kids who are watching today's advertising are developing chronic, non-communicable, diet-related diseases that when I went to medical school were only found in adults.

And don't kid yourself into thinking that marketing doesn't matter. While there are some who like to suggest that kids are, or with brief teaching can be made, media literate and that presumably the food industry is simply wasting literally billions of dollars on marketing that's just window dressing, the evidence states otherwise. Children who see advertisements are more likely to prefer branded foods, especially those high in sugars and fats, and that those advertisements lead kids to eat more of them. , and more food in general (including foods not being advertised). And in a study published recently, researchers suggested that food marketing to kids may alter the psychological and neurobiologic mechanisms of children's food decisions leading the researchers to state,
"Food commercials may prompt children to consider their liking and wanting of specific food items, irrespective of the lack of any health benefits. This increased emphasis on taste may make it even more difficult for relevant caregivers to encourage healthy food choices."
So with all of that in mind I can't tell you how pleased I am that The Honourable Nancy Greene Raine has introduced a bill in Canada's Senate that if passed would prohibit marketing of all food and beverages to children under the age of 13.

There really aren't any arguments to support the food industry's current advertising practices. Capitulating to the food industry by supporting the current status quo isn't about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech shouldn't extend to preying on our most precious, and vulnerable population.

Please consider voicing your support by clicking here and signing up to encourage your MP to support this bill.