Ban on food advertisement aimed at children needed

NDP MP Jean Crowder says voluntary regulations of food advertising directed at children haven't worked.

Once upon a time, it only happened on Saturday mornings — mini-cartoons during the commercial break, urging kids to follow the rainbow to a bowl of sugary cereal.

Now, with dedicated youth television channels, the barrage of food advertising directed at children is non-stop.

Health advocates like the Heart and Stroke Fund and Toronto’s medical officer of health have called for bans on food advertising to children.

They point out that just watching two hours of television a day can equal seeing 20,000 commercials per year. Over 50 per cent of those advertisements will be for food.

And according to an Ipsos-Reid poll, more than 80 per cent of parents want limits placed on the advertising of junk food and drinks to children.

That’s why NDP Leader Tom Mulcair committed to banning food advertising directed at children.

He said: “Good nutrition is smart public policy, and we know that eating more nutritious food means that Canadians live longer, better lives. We’ll put the power to make healthy food choices back in the hands of parents.”

I know that our communities are dealing with an epidemic of obesity. Along with the concerns about physical health, the mental health of children dealing with weight issues is a growing concern.

When Alvena Little Wolf-Ear of Nanaimo went public with her story of bullying, the nine-year-old revealed that many taunts were associated with her weight, as well as her First Nation heritage.

Quebec banned advertising to children over 30 years ago. And today, it has the fewest children with obesity in Canada.

Voluntary regulations haven’t worked.

While some major junk food companies stopped using television ads for marketing to children in 2007, the overall volume of ads hasn’t declined according to a study released in the journal Obesity in July 2014.

And some of the advertisers that stopped television ads now use other advertising methods, like sponsoring school food programs, to ensure children see their products day-in and day-out.

That’s why a national ban on food advertising directed at children makes sense. Countries like Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom have already done it.

If we act now, not only will we have healthier children, who will be less likely to suffer from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, but we will also prevent a future public health crisis.