The View From Here – Government proposes ban on food and beverage advertising aimed at children

Tom Henihan

Conservative senator Nancy Greene Raine introduced a private member’s bill that calls for a Canada-wide ban on the advertising of food and drink aimed at children.

Adopted by the Liberal government and sponsored by Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson, the bill received a seconding reading in the House of Commons on December 12 and it is set to be legislation soon, prohibiting food and beverage companies from using packaging and advertising campaigns targeting children.

The bill is likely to take a lot of the happiness out of the Happy Meal, especially from the perspective of the McDonald’s Corporation. And while McDonald’s is not the only enterprise targeting children, they have been so successful at the game that the name “McDonald’s” has become a byword for pushing unhealthy food on teenagers and young children.

In response to the increasing consumer awareness regarding a healthy diet, McDonald’s and other fast food franchises now offer items such as fruit slices, salads and low fat yogurt.

Rather than being a genuine move to offer healthy food, this is just another devious attempt to lure patrons and their children through the doors, knowing that customers will quickly abandon all resolve and order a side of hamburger and fries to compliment the McSalad.

In sponsoring the bill in the House, MP Doug Eyolfson, who is also a doctor, cited a marked increase of type-2 diabetes and heart disease among young people as a need for immediate and decisive action.

Unsurprisingly, the food industry is trying to counter the bill with the dubious argument that the new legislation does not define unhealthy food.

I suspect that the food and beverage industry is more than qualified to offer that definition could they be trusted to do so honestly.

The industry is also claiming that the bill is more evidence of the nanny state and that parents ought to decide what their children eat. This is especially amusing, considering the majority of fast food franchises are old hands at manipulating the parent/child dynamic.

In spite of the industries concerns, the Liberal government is staunchly behind the bill that will extend beyond fast food outlets and place restrictions on convenience stores and other vendors that sell junk food.

Though not as far-reaching as the proposed federal legislation, Quebec has legislation in place for years banning advertising of food and drink to children under 13.

This raises the question as to why successive federal governments have waited so long to implement legislation such as that now proposed in Nancy Greene Raine’s private member’s bill.

Along with restrictions on packaging and advertising one should hope that the use of incentives such as toys to attract children to specific brands will also be banned.

Currently, McDonald’s can join forces with Disney to provide action figures from popular movie franchises, which allows corporations to bamboozle children from all sides.

Like rewarding a child with candy, fast food is a treat, a departure from the norm and does not provide real sustenance. It should not be consumed with any regularity as it also cultivates an appetite for sugar, grease and all the other carefully measured admixtures that make junk food so deliciously unhealthy to a child’s palate.

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