Restricting advertising of certain foods to children under 13 years of age

Key Milestones

  • September 2016 - Introduction and first reading of Bill-S228 (An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed primarily at children)
  • October 2016 - Launch of the Healthy Eating Strategy
  • June 2017 – Health Canada held a 75-day public consultation on the policy proposal for advertising to children.
  • April 2018 - Amendments to Bill S-228 adopted by the Standing Committee on Health and includes:
    • Changing the definition of “children” from “under 17 years of age” to “under 13 years of age”
    • Introducing a mandatory Parliamentary review of the legislation, within 5 years of the Act coming into force, to assess the impact of the legislation in meaningfully reducing children’s exposure to advertising of foods that meet the nutrient criteria for restrictions.
  • September 2018- Bill S-228 passes third reading in the House of Commons and sent to the Senate for consideration. 
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The proposed Child Health Protection Act (Bill S-228) will restrict the advertising of foods that meet certain nutrient criteria to children under 13 years of age. There is evidence that the advertising of foods to children that contribute to excess intakes of sodium, saturated fat, or sugars increases the risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.

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Why restrict advertising to children

Nearly 1 in 3 Canadian children is overweight or obese. Overweight children are more likely to develop health problems later in life, including:

  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure

Being overweight or obese can also impact an individual’s mental health and well-being.

The rise in childhood obesity over the past few decades is linked to changes in our eating habits.

Many factors in our food environment influence our ability to:

  • make healthy food choices
  • follow a healthy pattern of eating

The factors that have a major impact on our food choices include:

  • foods available:
    • at home
    • at school
    • in stores and restaurants
  • social influences
  • food advertising

These factors can make healthy eating a challenge for many Canadians, and children are no exception. Healthy eating supports healthy growth and development and helps prevent chronic diseases.

Too much advertising

Canadian children see far too much advertising for foods that contribute to excess consumption of sodium, saturated fat and sugars:

  • Children see on average between 4 to 7 ads for food on TV every hour per station (excluding Quebec)Footnote 1
  • A Canadian study found that over 54 million food ads appeared on their favourite websites, from June 2015 to May 2016
    • Over 90% of these ads were for highly processed foods

Children are particularly vulnerable to advertising. Food advertising influences their:

  • eating patterns
  • taste preferences
  • purchase requests

Restricting advertising of food that meet certain nutrient criteria to children under 13 years of age will create an environment that supports healthy food choices.

Taking action to improve the health of Canadian children

We are proposing regulatory restrictions to limit the exposure of children under 13 years to ads of foods that contribute to excess sodium, sugars and/or saturated fat in their diet.  

The regulations and related guidance will:

  • Provide information on how to assess whether an advertising is directed primarily at children under 13 years of age
  • set the nutrient criteria for foods that must not be advertised to children under 13 years of age
  • cover a range of settings, media and advertising tactics and techniques
  • ensure that our children are offered the highest level of protection afforded under the Food and Drugs Act 

Consulting with Canadians about food advertising

Health Canada began consulting with stakeholders in 2016. Information on meetings and correspondence with stakeholders in which opinions and information are relayed with the intent to inform the development of the draft Guide, policy and/or regulations can be found on the Healthy Eating Strategy Openness and Transparency website.

Related Information

Footnote 1

Potvin Kent, M., Smith, J. R., Pauzé, E., & L'Abbé, M. (2018). The effectiveness of the food and beverage industry's self-established uniform nutrition criteria at improving the healthfulness of food advertising viewed by Canadian children on television. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 15(1), 57. doi:10.1186/s12966-018-0694-0

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