By: Lindsay Wadden
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has announced the government’s plan to limit marketing geared towards children for unhealthy foods and beverages.
Philpott made the announcement at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal this morning.
“We need to make choices that are good for Canadians, that will support them in making healthy choices and we will obviously make sure that we will do that in a way that allows industry time to catch up,” Philpott said.
Jemma Hunter, a registered dietitian in Toronto said limiting marketing of unhealthy foods to children would help decrease consumption of such products.
“Younger children tend to take advertising at face value, believing the messages that the company is promoting. After seeing the advertisements, children very often are the driving force persuading parents to purchase these unhealthy foods and beverages,” said Hunter.
Hunter said comprehensive education will be necessary to ensure that consumers understand new food labels.
Kate Comeau, Manager of Public Relations and Media of the Dietitians of Canada told Humber News the problem is children are consuming too much unhealthy things on a daily basis.
“Two things can happen: the unhealthy food will replace nourishing food or they are added on top which is giving them more calories than they need which could cause health problems.”
As for advertisements, Comeau said kids are exposed to marketing beyond just Saturday morning cartoons and that is creating a situation where kids are nagging parents for certain foods.
“Kids can’t tell the difference between advertisement and an education message. It creates an unfair situation where manufacturers are taking advantage of that and marketing to our kids,” said Comeau.
Ellysha Nicholson, a Creative Advertising student at Humber College said advertising agencies target children by using typography that is concise yet catching.
Nicholson said creating anticipation such as prizes or giveaways such as McDonalds Happy Meals giving children toys with their meal.
“They use brighter colours as well as memorable music and/or jingles that helps children remember their commercials. Storytelling in commercials is also something done in advertising such as creating characters that appeal to children and correlate with their brand,” said Nicholson.
The government also wants to update the ineffective nutrition guide with better recommendations and the latest scientific evidence.
Philpott said Canada Food Guide, which has not been updated since 2007, has not kept up with the country’s lifestyle.
Canadians have told her they find it difficult to apply the recommendations.
“The classic one-size-fits all guide no longer meets the needs of Canadians,” said Philpott during her speech this morning.
“The guide must be relevant and practical and provide advice for Canadians whether they are shopping at the grocery store or looking at a restaurant menu. It must be individualized and adaptable for food preferences and sensitivities,” she said.
A Health Canada review of the Canada Food Guide found it doesn’t clearly distincguish between age groups, sex, activity levels, or height.
The government will be consulting how to make it easier for Canadians to understand labels.
Labels on food and beverages will eventually highlight if the product is high or low in certain nutrients.
Canada will follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations that was released in 2010.
Their recommendations are to reduce the exposure of children to advertising and to reduce the use of strong marketing techniques employed by the manufacturers of foods and beverages that include foods containing sodium, trans fats, sugar, and food colours.
The federal Health Department aims to have updated dietary guidelines by 2018 that will reflect the most up-to-date scientific evidence on diet and health.