It is no secret that food and drinks ads bombard everyday be it online, on TV, radio, billboards or posters. According to the advertising industry, we see nearly 160 billion food and drink ads every year. And health advocates say 90 per cent are for items that are high in fat, salt or sugar. Now Health Canada has come out proposing new ad restrictions on ads that are peddling junk food and targeting kids. This restrictions would limit these ads online as well as other places where kids frequent such as amusements parks and schools.
In mid-August, Health Canada wrapped up two months of public consultation on this issue. More consultation over this issue has been haunted until next year, however no deadline has been set for implementing this new guidelines.
The advertising industry has rebutted this new proposal saying the new guidelines are an overreach. Advertisers claim that the link between junk foods ads and obesity is not clear however health advocates assert that there is a direct link.
“Research clearly shows that marketing influences children’s food requests, preferences and choices,” says Lesley James, senior manager of health policy at the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“This age group isn’t yet able to understand the consequences of their actions on long-term health, and younger kids can’t distinguish between entertainment, reality or marketing,” James says.
In Canada’s advertising system, the industry regulates itself.
“The industry has undertaken a voluntary initiative to date and it’s been deemed to be ineffective,” James says. “The criteria are very weak, and we know that, in the online environment, about three-quarters of the industry that is signed up for these pledges is marketing unhealthy food and beverages to children.”
The Association of Canadian Advertisers argues that these new guidelines could limit their ability to reach their other target audience, adults.
“What the government is proposing is in effect a complete ban on all food and beverage advertising,” ACA president Ron Lund tells CBC News.