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. The detailed list of multisectoral meetings is below.

Further 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 Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating website

Detailed list of meetings on restricting advertising of certain foods and beverages to children under 13 years of age
Date Stakeholder
June 7, 2019 Distribution of the report summarizing the comments received on version 1.0 of the draft Guide to the Application of the Child Health Protection Act
May 14, 2019 Dairy Farmers of Ontario
May 5, 2019 Association of Canadian Advertisers
April 29, 2019 Retail Council of Canada
April 3, 2019 Mars Canada
April 2, 2019 Canadian National Millers Association
March 27, 2019 Dairy Processors Association of Canada
March 26, 2019 Canadian Beverage Association
March 18, 2019 Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids (with Heart and Stroke Foundation [Québec], Québec Office de la protection du consommateur, and Joey Zukran, LPC Avocats Inc.)
February 21, 2019 Canadian Federation of Agriculture
February 20, 2019 Cineplex Entertainment
February 14, 2019 Canadian National Millers Association
February 4, 2019 Food & Consumer Products of Canada
January 30, 2019 Retail Council of Canada
December 18/28 2018 Distribution of version 1.0 of the draft Guide to the Application of the Child Health Protection Act (see entry from December 18, 2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for an overview of comments received)
December 14, 2018 Heart & Stroke Foundation and Childhood Obesity Foundation
December 14, 2018 Health stakeholders (see meeting note from December 14,  2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
December 13, 2018 Industry stakeholders (see meeting note from December 13, 2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
December 12, 2018 Movie Theatre Association of Canada and Cineplex
November 28, 2018 Canadian Beverage Association members
November 22, 2018 Association of Canadian Advertisers, Canadian Beverage Association, Food & Consumer Products of Canada, Restaurants Canada, Retail Council of Canada
November 14, 2018 Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids
November 7, 2018 Retail Council of Canada
November 5, 2018 Industry associations and members (see meeting note from November 5, 2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
October 17, 2018 Retail Council of Canada
October 1, 2018 Mars Canada
September 20, 2018 Canadian Beverage Association
September 14, 2018 Canadian Convenience Stores Association
August 1, 2018 Industry association and members (see meeting note from August 1, 2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
July 12, 2018 Restaurants Canada
July 10, 2018 Sports Matters and AthletesCAN
July 3, 2018 Canadian Parks and Recreation Association
May 30, 2018 Ferrero Canada and Gowling WLG
May 25, 2018 Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions
May 7, 2018 Industry, experts and health stakeholders (see meeting note from May 7, 2018 on the Healthy Canada's webpage "Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating" for the full list of participants)
April 26, 2018 Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada
April 16, 2018 Prospectus Associates
April 16, 2018 Industry association and members (see meeting note from April 16, 2018 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
March 16, 2018 Canadian Horticultural Council
March 6, 2018 Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada
February 8, 2018 Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada
January 17, 2018 Association of Canadian Advertisers
December 15, 2017 Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition
December 12, 2017 Loblaw Companies Limited
December 12, 2017 Mars Canada
November 28, 2017 National Hockey League
November 27, 2017 Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada
August 31, 2017 Dairy Farmers of Canada
August 23, 2017 Mars Canada
June 10, 2017–August 14, 2017 White Paper, published online to seek input on the proposed approach for restricting advertising to children. The consultation report was published in December 2017.
June 8, 2017 Health stakeholders (see meeting note from June 8, 2017 on the Healthy Canada’s webpage “Meetings and correspondence on healthy eating” for the full list of participants)
May 25-27, 2017 Canadian Nutrition Society
January 25, 2017 Association for Canadian Advertisers
November 30, 2016 Heart & Stroke Foundation
June 1, 2016 Advertising Standards Canada

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

Return to footnote 1 referrer

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