April 25, 2023 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of children across the country. Evidence shows that children are particularly vulnerable to food and beverage advertising that undermines healthy eating, influences their attitudes, preferences, purchase requests, consumption patterns, and, ultimately, their overall health. Most of these ads are for foods that contribute to unhealthy diets with excess intakes of sodium, sugars, or saturated fat, which are key drivers of risk factors for obesity and chronic disease.
Health Canada’s new policy update proposes an approach to restricting the advertising of food and beverages to children, starting with advertising on television and digital media. This approach prioritizes media where children spend much of their time and where they are highly exposed to food advertising, including ads that air during a children’s program or on a children’s website.
To inform this work, Health Canada has been monitoring the nature and extent of advertising of food and beverages to children in Canada. The data demonstrates that television continues to be a large source of exposure to food advertising. Most children report seeing ads for fast food, snacks, sugary drinks, desserts/treats, and sugary cereals at least once a week. Overall, it was found that the average child and teen viewed more than 1,700 food and beverage ads on television in 2019, which translates to an average of nearly five ads per day. Furthermore, with the growth of digital media and the use of mobile devices, children are also significantly exposed to online ads.
Prior to releasing the policy update today, extensive consultations and engagement were undertaken with industry and partners between 2016 and 2019. Following the consultations, Health Canada continued reviewing international initiatives and new evidence, as well as the results of its monitoring activities, to determine how to best support healthier eating and drinking habits for children in Canada.
Today’s update represents an important first step in restricting the advertising of certain foods and beverages to children to help protect them from the risks of an unhealthy diet, now and later in life. This policy will form the basis for draft regulations that will be published around winter 2024 for public consultation.
To support potential further restrictions that will lead to healthier habits for children, Health Canada will continue to monitor food advertising to children across a variety of settings, media, and techniques.